On Valentine’s Day, My Son Part 2: Tony

Dearest Tony,

You have always been my sensitive guy, wearing your heart on the outside where it’s more vulnerable.  I am convinced it is simply too big to be contained within your chest, and that’s why it breaks so easily.  Because of that sensitive heart you’ve taught me so much about love.

You are a rare find, my son.  Your empathy for those around you is a virtue few share.  There was a time when you were very young that you saw a commercial on television about a little girl who was six years old, very close to your own age at the time, who was dying from cancer.  Her wish was to see a real princess.  I remember the tears that poured down your cheeks because it was the first time you realized that children could die.  You didn’t cry out of fear that this could happen to you or someone you love.  You cried because you realized for the first time that life is as delicate as butterfly wings sometimes.  You said to me, “Mom, I’m glad that she got that last wish.  She was able to see how beautiful life is before she died.”  You never fail to see the bigger picture.

You are the only little boy I know who cries when his fish die, insisting that they be buried properly.  At first I was frustrated because I couldn’t soothe your hurt over a dalmatian molly’s demise, wishing we’d flush it and move on.  But then I realized something.  To you, all life, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is precious, a gift to behold, a loss to be lamented with vigor.  In that instant, wiping away the tears on your cheeks, I knew that you loved that fish as much as I loved you.  There aren’t enough rivers in the world to contain my tears if the tables were turned.

You see the overwhelming value in the relationships you have.  When someone has wronged you and sincerely apologizes you are quick to forgive and forget.  You love the way we all should–without barriers, without question, without condition.YOU (1)

You are keenly aware that words matter, and how easily they can hurt.  You are the first to offer encouraging advice, the first to lend a helping hand, the first to help soothe a wounded heart.

Caring for others is so much a part of you.  You’ve had numerous pets that you’ve loved and cared for all on your own.  The desire to love something is strong in you. It’s what makes me certain that you will be an amazing husband and father someday.

You are willing to do everything possible to save the relationships you have.  I saw that when you quarantined your fish in a bucket and fed it antibiotics, changing its water daily, spending upwards of thirty dollars to save the life of a 99 cent fish.  This part of you makes me certain that you will fight just as hard for the people you love.  That’s a rare treasure to find in someone these days.

You are willing to give of yourself even if it comes at great cost to you.  You had saved for months to buy a new dinosaur, something you talked about so much that Dad and I were beyond tired of hearing about it.  Then the Pennies for Patients campaign came to school.  Without a second thought you donated every cent you saved all those months for to the campaign because “kids with cancer need help more than I need another dinosaur,” you said.  You broke my heart with pride that day.

You may only be twelve, Tony, but you are someone I aspire to be more like.

We should all love without measure.

We should all exhaust every possibility before giving up on anything.

We should all treasure and respect the love we receive, regardless of how small.

We should all be filled to overflowing with compassion

We should all love with our hearts on our sleeves, making us vulnerable and more in touch with those around us.

That’s what love is, my son.

And I learned that from you.



On Valentine’s Day, My Son: Part 1: Jimmy

Dearest Jimmy,

Since you were born you’ve heard countless times about how much you’re like your dad.  You do resemble him quite a bit, so much so that I’m still not sure any of my DNA exists in your body.  You are stubborn like your dad, and you have a tendency to break down most ideas to their lowest common denominator like him, too.  You have many of his good sides and a few of his bad, just like any child of any parent.  It’s the little nuances that are uniquely you, the subtle differences between you and your dad, that I cherish most.  They make you the awesome boy I’ve loved since you were but a twinkle in my eye.

I want you to know that I see you.  I see you below that cold demeanor you wear like a shield.  I know that somewhere under it beats a warm and loving heart.  I’ve seen it a few times when I was hurt or you were scared.  I’ve seen it when you’re with your friends and their birthdays roll around or one of them truly needs a friend.  You are there for the people you love when they really need it most.  It’s that quality that makes you a treasure to anyone privileged enough to call you friend.You are a treasure to anyone privileged

I see you when you are hurt and you try to hide it.  You get crabby and argumentative and that’s how I know that something is wrong.  You play things close to the vest, never revealing too much, always guarded.  I know it sucks that I know this about you, but, what can I say?  I’m your mom.  You and I have instruction manuals that are cosmically linked, a cord that ties us forever, unbreakable.  Because of this, and because I love you, I hurt when you hurt.  My heart breaks when your heart breaks.  When I see those brown eyes of yours begin to tear up, my own overflow.  There’s no fighting the urge to wrap you in my arms and make it all go away.

I see you as you grow up, each day morphing a little more into the man you were meant to be.  I am constantly surprised by the changes I see.  Where once stood my cute little boy, so small and curious beyond measure, now stands a tall, handsome fellow asking grown up questions about adult subjects.  Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of my wide-eyed little boy hiding in the shadows of your semi-adult self, glinting like the treasure only I can see.

I see you, Jimmy.  I see all the curiosity from when you were a little boy.  I see the stubbornness and the independence that you exhibit now.  I see the potential in your grown up self.  I see the awesomeness that is you.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

Just know, on this Valentine’s Day, that you are so very loved.

Not because you look and act like Dad.

Because you are uniquely you–a masterpiece that I am proud to call son.




Serious stuff

The face of hope

A pink fleece cap.

Wisps of blonde hair.

A smile to rival the sun’s brightness.

That is our Aunt Theresa.

I swear to you that if there is a Devil in this world his name is cancer, eating our bodies from the inside out.  But Aunt Theresa doesn’t flinch.  She has her faith.  She is fond of saying, “God led me to this, he’ll lead me through it.”  She isn’t letting breast cancer define her.  She treats it like just another hurdle, just one more chore to get out of the way.  I look at her and my eyes fill with tears for so many reasons, not the least of which is the inspiration she is to us all.

Even when she got the diagnosis, she was positive and up.  While I know she is scared and angry inside, she rarely shows it.  She won’t let this beat her.  She wears her faith like armor and knows she has family to bolster her.

When I entered the room of a recent family gathering I saw her, holding the latest addition to her string of grandchildren, five-month-old Ryan.  Her arms wrapped around him, bouncing him on her lap, she smiled the smile of one who is bursting with pride.  I thought to myself, “Little man, you have no idea the strength upon whose lap you sit.”  Because it’s true.  I know in my heart I could never be that strong in the face of such a demon.

My thoughts tend to run much darker, negativity being my go-to response.  When I see Aunt Theresa and my thoughts turn cold, she always warms them.  She tells me things like, “Don’t let others steal your joy.”  She reminds me that this life is what we get, the only shot we have at proving the Devil wrong.

Each positive phrase she gives me makes me thankful she has God on her side.  You see, Aunt Theresa is one of the few true Christians I’ve ever met.  She walks the walk and talks the talk.  She loves without measure or judgement.  She relishes the value of a friend and welcomes all with open arms into her life.  Her ability to forgive is something to behold and to which we should all aspire.

I am not a religious person by any stretch of the idea.  I don’t feel the presence of God in my life the way so many people do.  However, it’s hard to be with Aunt Theresa and not wonder that my own thoughts are wrong.  She has no doubt in her God.  She doesn’t question His path for her.  She goes willingly and with zeal.  She sees the light, always, and is quick to steer you in its direction should you wander into the dark.  The minute you start to feel down, like cancer will win, she gives you a wonderful gift.


I’ve seen the face of hope.

It wears a pink fleece cap, has wisps of blonde hair and a smile that rivals the brightness of the sun.