Tonight my heart is heavy. I listened into the phone in pain as my wife told me how my son cried tonight — his back turned to her as they lay in bed together — sobbing, three and a half, but fully heartbroken.
He had to say goodbye (again) to his best friend and caregiver, Gina. This young woman has always given him her full and undivided attention and adoration. They laugh and play and cuddle every minute of their five-hour stretches together. If it weren’t for their obvious age difference, you would think they are lovers. And they are.
I have never been so pained by the heartbreak of another person. When my wife relayed the story of their final minutes together and Kai’s sobbing in bed, I instantly teared up and began to double over. I wanted desperately to go home and hold him. But I knew that I would not be able to do much. Heartbreak is a lonely affair, even with loved-ones around.
The thing is that both Kari and I are pleased he wept openly tonight, and cried out loud until the tears stopped on their own. We have come to recognize the difference between defensive “OK-ness” and the healing power of allowing vulnerability. We now know that tears are the mark of health — a taproot into compassion and power — and trust that our son is being worked by the loving hands of God. Still, he is my son and now I am heartbroken.
And now I pray for every one of you to be heartbroken — to live a depth of feeling, of open-heartedness and intimacy such that you feel pained by even a subtle gap in that closeness. I want you to feel so much love in your bones that it hurts just thinking about that person’s leaving you some day. I want your heart to swell with yearning and missing and to tremble in your vulnerability, because this is how you know you are alive — that you are in Love — and I want that for you.
But of course, I am preaching to the choir.
We are parents. And we are all willingly and gratefully heartbroken, over and over and over again.
To my son Kai, who is growing up faster than I can handle,
who is experiencing things that will take decades to digest,
and who is teaching me the meaning of words like heartbroken, compassion,