My mother-in-law, Helen, was ninety-one years old when she had open heart surgery. A few months later, the doctor implanted a new pacemaker. It was then that he showed us the video of the operation. On a screen, I saw her heart beating. I was awestruck by the strength and beauty of it.
Hers, I suppose, was no different than yours or mine. If we’re as lucky, as she was, our hearts will beat for almost a century. If we are as smart, as she was, we will fill them to bursting with love of family, learning, nature, and faith in something greater than ourselves. My mother-in-law wrote poetry and read novels, she covered the walls of her home with paintings and photographs, she listened to music while the sun set. She loved the peace she found in the local mountains, she loved the beach, she loved to travel and she loved a glass of good wine.
That heart of hers had known pain and fear and joy and pride. It was filled up with memories of the small farm town where she grew up and rode a horse to school, a career in medicine, a family that was built one child at a time until it was big and busy, and the loss of one baby who was always remembered in the deepest, most personal part of her strong heart. And still there was room for me.
I was embraced as a daughter, I was championed as a writer, we shared hours and days and years disagreeing about politics and agreeing about everything else. My heart will miss her but it is stronger because of her.
I finally understand why on Valentine’s Day we celebrate the heart. It is an amazing vessel that each of us can fill as we like, and, like Helen’s heart, is never so full that there isn't room for one more person to love and one more day to cherish.
Love to Helen, from Rebecca
|Rebecca Forster Website|