Ask Me Anything: Just Not About Love

Last night, when I went to kiss my 12-year-old daughter goodnight, she burst into tears.

“Why can’t I see them more often?” she wailed. She was talking about her friends, the triplets, who had been at our house for a sleepover.

My daughter met the three sisters several years ago at a family summer camp, and the four of them have remained friends despite the 70 miles between them. They had a wonderful visit, crammed with movies, make-overs, homemade cake pops, and late-night giggles—the stuff of memories. But none of that stopped her from sobbing in grief.

In the other room, my older son was equally morose. He had just returned from a trip to New Jersey, where he attended a weekend teen camp with his church youth group. This year’s theme was “Your God is Showing,” and though he hadn’t yet shared details with me, I knew from his past trips that the experience was undoubtedly profound and transformational. Fifty teens sharing hopes and fears around who they are and who they want to be leads to some intense bonding.

His grief at being ripped from those heart-ties to return to (big sigh!) his family showed in the way he buried himself under the blankets on my bed.

What could I tell them? Finding connection is wonderful, but the thing about having an open heart is that we feel every cold draft. We miss people. We get lonely. But, just like Celine Dion’s power ballad says, our hearts go on.

If you’ve been in a drugstore lately, you’ll see that hearts do, in fact, go on and on. At least the plastic, cherry-red, candy-filled ones. I’ve barely finished toasting the New Year and Valentine’s Day is already in full swing, pushing me to think about love. Do I have enough? How do I get more? And more importantly, if I buy my kids the Whitman sampler with the plush Snoopy on it, will it sweeten the lessons they’re learning about love and the expansion of their own hearts?

I wish I could comfort them with the right words. But I’m confused just looking at the Sweetheart candy hearts:

Ask me. Ask me what?

Say yes. Yes to what?

And this one—Reach 4 it—just makes me feel inadequate.

I turn instead to the great lyrics of Leonard Cohen: Love is not a victory march. It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah. Hallelujah means “God be praised.” So what else can I do but offer praise for love, friendship, passion, and even pain?

Cohen’s song goes on:

And even though it all went wrong

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

I could try to articulate this to my kids. Or I could leave it, the way I did last night, with a hug and a kiss and a silent tear of my own, knowing that they must also stand before the Lord of Song and feel their own feelings.

They have to find their own Hallelujah.

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