I believe in love. Sounds like the title to a corny song from the 70’s by the Archies or The Partridge Family, doesn’t it? What I mean is that I believe that love is the strongest force that exists. Love drives us; it effects our day-to-day decisions and shapes our future.
Growing up in Minnesota in the 1970’s in a Scandinavian family, expressing our love for one another within the family wasn’t something we routinely did. My parents told me they loved me, but I knew that. They didn’t have any choice, they were my parents. All parents love their children, right? But we kids didn’t reciprocate. It was just understood that I loved my parents and my brother and two sisters. Nothing ever needed to be said.
In 1990 I got my first “real job”. It was an incredibly low-paying job that required me to move away from my childhood home. My maternal grandmother, Violet, was in a nursing home at the time and before I left town, I stopped by to see her. She was dying from congestive heart failure, incredibly frail and I knew it was the last time I was going to see her alive. As she sat on the edge of the bed, we talked about some of the holidays we’d spent together, the wonderful cinnamon rolls she would make, and the trips to different parks in Minneapolis she’d take us to when we came to visit. When it came time for me to leave, I did something I had never done before. I told her I loved her. She passed away about ten days later.
The terrorist attacks on 9/11 made me re-evaluate what is important in my life. I’ve read several of the transcripts of some of the victims’ final telephone calls to their loved ones and even though they are incredibly heartbreaking, I find myself haunted by them. It was almost like I was determined to find something positive in such an unspeakable tragedy. I needed to learn something about myself from those messages. What I learned was that in the face of almost certain death caused by misguided, evil men, the victims turned to the one thing the terrorists couldn’t take away from them. The love they had for their children, spouses, parents, and friends was not vulnerable to the terrorists.
My wife and I have two young children and since 9/11, I’ve thought a lot about my life and what I might have been put on this earth to accomplish. I realize that I’ll never be rich or famous, but as I watch my kids grow and learn, I’ve found not just my purpose in life, but who I am. And if there is one thing I want my children to know, it is that love isn’t merely something you feel. It is something that connects us all to one another and not only defines who we are, but explains why we are here.
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