I believe in truisms. All the old clichés you’re not allowed to put in your English papers; the ones you debate with your college roommates (Is it really better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?); the sappy ones that recycle themselves onto greeting cards. Especially the sappy ones, because they taught me about love.
It was a morning in late January when truisms came alive for me. My husband and I were watching my 20-week-ultrasound, excited to learn if we were expecting a boy or a girl. Instead, after staring at his screen for a few minutes, my doctor gripped my hand. “I’m sorry,” he said. “This baby is not alive.”
In an instant, my world came crashing down. I started to cry; so did my husband. As we watched the final moments of the ultrasound-our last glimpses of a daughter we would never see-old sayings took new meanings. “Money isn’t everything; money can’t buy happiness.” A thousand vacations, a million dollars could never replace the tiny, still form on the screen. “You don’t know what you have till you’ve lost it.” There I was, weeping uncontrollably for a baby I hadn’t known I already loved.
Afterwards, words were no comfort. “Maybe it’s for the best,” or “There will be other children,” couldn’t touch the cold ache in my heart. What did help was knowing how other people had suffered and survived. Mothers in the Middle Ages (my specialty of study); pioneer ancestors who had buried children crossing the plains; my mother and mother-in-law and countless friends–these women and others like them had buried their own losses, and grieved, and still lived to teach that “Time heals all wounds.” Hugs from my two living children, infinitely more precious to me now, also warmed my grieving soul. “Love is all you need,” I learned, or maybe, simply, “Love is what you need.”
I believe that truisms describe our universal human experience: our loves, our losses, our successes, and our griefs. The sayings are old, but the meanings become new to each of us–lessons we learn for the first time.