Every six weeks our school has a writing contest. We read a book about the assigned theme and then whoever wants to participate writes a story. This time our theme was love/sacrifice and we read The Giving Tree. Oh my word. That book hits you right in the feels. It’s pretty heavy for first graders and I usually get questioned about my watery eyes when I read it.
Student #1: Mrs. G, are you crying?
Student #2: No, she’s not crying. I think she just has allergies.
Student #3: She is too crying. She always cries in books like this.
Student #4: Yeah, remember when she read us Love You Forever? She really cried a lot in that one.
And so it goes.
But really. That poor tree. Sacrificing everything just to make her boy happy. Giving of her branches, her apples, and herself, until she’s just a tiny stump.
So, as I went to write my story for the contest, I contemplated the ideas of love and sacrifice. Love is easy. I could write about Chris or loving my girls or the love of my parents. Chris makes sacrifices for me. I know my parents have sacrificed for me their whole lives, just like I try to do for Claire and Lucy. But true living sacrifice? Someone who gives themselves completely for the joy of someone else? Someone who embodies the selfless love of Jesus?
And then I thought of her. Lucy’s first momma. Of course. Her path crosses our family’s story at the intersection of Love and Sacrifice. That one decision she made – to give life – and to share life with us, have changed all of us forever.
And so I wrote. I wrote about our giving tree.
As she enters the room, that precious bundle in her arms, I see it in her eyes. Above the tear-stained cheeks, intermingled with the grief, it’s there. This is the day that will change all of our lives forever, and I can see it so clearly. I can see the love.
At home, we unpack the carton she sent with us, touching each item gently as we pull them out. The soft fur of a pink teddy bear, a snow globe with delicate yellow roses painted at the base, a plaque with the words, “When I count my blessings, I count you twice” scrolling across it. Tears fill my eyes as I place them on the new one’s shelf. So tiny and fresh, she doesn’t know yet how much these things mean. She doesn’t fully understand this love.
When the pictures arrive in the mail I see the courage on her face. And always I see the love in her eyes. When the e-mails arrive exclaiming over the pictures I’ve sent and the new one’s beauty, I hear the love in every word. I feel the pride she’s beaming, even when far away.
I don’t see the tears she cries. But I get to brush tiny tears off baby cheeks and hold a little one close. I don’t know the painful thoughts that must fill her mind some nights as she lies down to sleep. But I get to watch deep breaths enter and exit a little chest as my girl sleeps peacefully. I will never know the full weight of her sacrifice, but I am thankful every second of every day.
Love is not always easy. Love is sacrifice and giving beyond the place that it hurts. Love is painful and difficult and heart wrenching. And love is beautiful.