Thursday, May 28, 2009

Love as Presence

This weekend I attended my step-brother's wedding.

It was a festive affair -- complete with the traditional activities and trimmings from rehearsal dinner to dollar dance. Looking at the groom's gleeful smile, you would never guess the heartache he recently suffered.

He lost his maternal grandmother just two short weeks ago.

Last March his mother died suddenly and unexpectedly.

The year before his maternal grandfather went in for surgery and was unable to recover.

His father arrived for the wedding rehearsal and made a trip to the hospital to be checked out as he was not feeling well. He was admitted the following morning and unable to attend his only son's wedding.

To look at this young man beaming at his new bride, you would have no idea the core of his support system had recently been swept out from beneath him.

He was the consummate host -- welcoming, warm, assuring that needs were met and all were comfortable.

As I celebrated with family and friends, I pondered the circumstances that brought us to this day and prayed that Layne's apparent resilience was not merely a facade but the result of the love and support he continues to receive from his aunts, uncles, cousins, family and friends.

I was reminded of a time, not so long ago, when my life was less than ideal. Despite confusing and often hurtful circumstances, I found myself the recipient of that same kind of support -- love demonstrated through presence.

You see, I have these amazing women in my life, dubbed by my college boyfriend as "the Aunts." Despite growing families and busy lives of their own, my aunts, uncle and their families showed up for the important things.

At graduations, recitals, concerts, plays, musicals, and the like they drove hours to be there to smile, kiss, hug, cheer me on and let me know that to somebody, I was important and loved.

With children of my own, I realize the commitment that took. It would have been easy to say they were too busy. I'm sure the travel was tiring and the circumstances sometimes stressful.

I also realize how rare that kind of love and commitment are. Not every child is so blessed.

So I shouldn't be surprised that my aunts and uncle showed up yet again, this time for my step-brother. Despite a grandson's graduation the following day and a one-day 10-hour round trip, they were there, smiling, loving, hugging and caring.

I have a feeling my stepbrother understands what a precious gift that is and how much we all want the very best for him.

Resilience is not bravely soldiering on when life repeatedly knocks you down. In truth, it is reaching out and accepting the support of those who care so that by their presence, you may know you are not alone, and you are loved.