“I love you from here to heaven!”

That’s what my friend Lucy always tells her twin grandsons. In a way, she’s doing the same thing many of us did when our children or grandchildren were small – spreading our arms out as far as we could while answering our own question of “Do you know how much I love you?” with a stretched-out “Soooooo much.” Or reaching up to the sky, proclaiming “Soooooo big,” as we let our toddlers know how grown-up they were becoming. And we melted completed whenever they responded in kind, telling us for themselves how big they were getting, and especially when saying how much they loved us.

But Lucy is giving the boys so much more. In a very gentle and comforting way, she’s also teaching them about life and death. About heaven and earth. About love and growth, yes, but also about connections. Especially with loved ones who are no longer with us.

Lucy’s simple comment allows her to share with her grandsons stories about her own grandparents, people the twins never met and would probably never know about if they didn’t have Lucy to bring them to life through her stories about them. Stories that include what they were like, how they looked, the things that Lucy did with them and remembers about them, and the fact that even though they’re gone now, their memory is still alive in Lucy. And that she loves them, from here all the way to heaven.

It was a few months ago that Lucy was telling me about all this, but I’ve been thinking about it again now because several friends of mine have lost loved ones just in the past few weeks. Some of the deaths were sudden and unexpected, as in the case of a fatal car accident. Others were of people who were elderly, or after a lingering illness. And although we have time to prepare for saying goodbye when this is the case, it doesn’t make the goodbye any easier.

Whatever our religious beliefs, I think we can all take comfort and find peace in the words Lucy shares with her grandsons, and that I’m sure she has shared with her own kids – not only when they were small, but throughout their lives. “I love you from here to heaven” is not just an indication of an immeasurable distance, but of a relationship that reaches back through history and forward into eternity, even crossing that mysterious border between life and death. That’s a pretty powerful connection! And no matter how old we are, or whether we are the ones saying the words or the ones hearing them, they can bring us a sense of closeness rather than loss, and a sense of strength we may not be ready to feel on our own.

Perhaps it’s also appropriate to be thinking about a message like this as we move on from the rituals and remembrances of the Memorial Day we just celebrated – although that never feels like the appropriate word for the holiday that honors those we have lost while they were in service to our country. Still, as time goes by and the memory of the names, the faces, and the wars grow more distant, it doesn’t change the bond we have with those loved ones, or they with us. We can always love them from here to heaven. And we can teach our children – and grandchildren – to do the same.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on May 31, 2012.
© Betty Liedtke, 2012
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