“It sure is,” I replied with a beaming smile. Her next comment has stayed with me. “You will never know a greater love for anyone or anything in your life.”
The conversation on parenting and love of a child continued that morning while I sipped my coffee at the bakery in North Carolina. Our waitress had a sparkle in her eye as I smiled and thanked her for her congratulations and advice. As I gazed across the table into the gleaming eyes of the soon-to-be mother of my daughter, I was guessing what it was my partner of 10 years was thinking.
Could our waitress possibly be right? Will I never know a greater love for anyone or anything than my unborn child? Friends and family have since echoed the sentiments of that waitress almost daily.
Several questions filled my head the rest of that morning in that cafe. How could I love my soon-to-arrive
baby more than her own mother, my best friend whom I adore so much? Is this what happens to soulmates once they become parents?
I concluded that it must just be a different kind of love. After all, it seems we “love” different things in different ways. Maybe the word itself is grossly overused. Take, for example, that restored 1956 Plymouth or sailing yacht. What about that house you
built on the western hillside that allows you a lifetime of breathtaking sunsets? Or maybe a tumbling brook with the amber glow of autumn in Vermont. Do we love these things as much as we say we do?
I recently purchased a new car. And as much as I may “love” all its comforts, bells and whistles, my ’70 Cutlass and ’73 Chevy will always have ownership of that department in my heart (despite the horrible gas mileage). Because what they were is what they are still in memory.
My mind drifted to a recent conversation I had with an individual grieving the loss of her pet. As I got to thinking about what I have loved, my mind naturally turned to my dog Buddy.
I asked myself if it was possible to ever love another dog as much. Maybe. But is it a fair question? After all, what is there to compare to? The love we have for our pets, just as with humans, lies very deeply in our hearts, owning their very unique space. And this particular space is tied directly to our time spent with them, our history shared and the memories we possess. It isn’t something that can be replaced by anything or anyone else. It was a void already permanently filled.
When it comes to Buddy, the reality is that he holds a space in my heart during a very specific chapter of my life that no other dog or pet could possibly replace. Is that justification for allowing myself to welcome another dog into my life? I’ll let you decide. But chances are if you’re a “dog guy” like me, there’s a bit of extra room in your heart.
Yet to compare or attempt to replace one relationship with another will ultimately set us up for great disappointment. Because car to car, dog to dog, sunset to sunset is something I consider immeasurable. None are the same, and therefore none are equal. I find that individuals who grieve the loss of anything can discover the joy of newness and life only if they first possess a solid grasp of this.
To those of you who have loved and lost, please find hope that there is room in your heart to love again. And you are not expected to love the same way you have in the past. Accept that these are different terms and there is no need to “wipe your slate clean.” Animals don’t allow us to quite do that. Most of them carry on within the depths of our souls until our last breath. Beginning a new chapter in your life doesn’t diminish or dilute this in any way.
While I may have an understanding as to what that waitress may have been suggesting, I will carry on loving family, friends, dogs and daughters in different ways. And I’m more excited than words could describe about the void in my heart that is about to be filled.
JD Green hosts “The Breakfast Club” on Froggy 100.9 FM. He and his girlfriend, Charilyn Williams, have started Paws, a central Vermont pet bereavement group. It is free and open to the public, and meets periodically at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 790 in Barre. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.