By Jessica Martin
Picture: My four year old angel, Kayci
Three days ago my daughter who just recently turned four asked me one of the most difficult questions anyone has ever asked me: “Mommy, what does love feel like?” We were driving home and I was lost in thought and completely taken aback by this very profound question that came from my little girl. I always try to answer her questions even when I do not truly know the answers. However I cannot look in a book or browse the internet for the questions/answers regarding love. I knew I had to answer and yet could only think of one word: safe.
It would be easier to answer such a huge yet simple question if Kayci was about ten years older than she is but she is not your average toddler in any way, shape or form. I am not sure I even truly understood the deepest feeling of love until she was born. I did what all adults do when they do not know how to answer a question: answer a question with a question (do you not just hate that!?) I asked her: “How do you know you love mommy?” She answered much more quickly than I had anticipated: “That is silly mommy. Of course I love you. You take care of me, are funny, and I don’t know I just love you.” However, she kept pressing me for my answer of : “What does love feel like?” I finally surrendered and babbled something that is beyond hard to explain: “Love is something that is hard to put into words. Mommy cannot imagine life without you, that thought is very scary because I love you so much. Love is a feeling that is hard to put into words. I think love is feeling safe and important and knowing you are loved enough to love yourself. I think you and Mommy love music so much because it puts into words what we cannot say.” Needless to say this was a profound moment that has not left my mind the past few days. And yes, a little deep for a little girl with the mind of a true healer.
Fast forward to the next day when I was the lucky one to get the stomach virus that is going around. No matter what ailment one gets, everyone seems to say: “Oh that is going around. My best friend’s, sister’s, cousin just had the same thing.” I awoke around midnight two nights ago at the sound of my daughter’s voice calling me. I stood up and realized I was dizzy beyond belief. It was truly difficult to walk. However, my daughter needed me (love) and love sometimes means doing things you do not want to do such as standing up in the middle of the night because your toddler begs you to.
As I walked down the hallway I became more and more dizzy until I fell, literally fell and hard. I fell in front of our bathroom and then began vomiting everywhere. I was scared. I awoke the next morning with multiple bruises and was literally unable to get out of bed. My dad who has always made me feel safe was at our home within the hour, playing with Kayci and making me toast. I slept for the following twenty four hours: that is sick. I never sleep during the day. I awoke yesterday and still felt pretty awful. Our daughter has her first dance recital in less than a month and yesterday was the last day to buy tickets for the show. She is only four and is beyond excited to dance for the people who love her. She loves music and dance and I felt such guilt at the thought of not taking her to dance or worse not buying tickets to her recital.
Call it a mother’s strength, or call it love but somehow I managed to get her dressed in her hot pink tutu, feed her, and get her to dance class on time. Her friend’s parents took one look at me and said: “What happened to you! You should be in bed. How did you even drive here?” Without thinking, I simply stated: “Love. I would do anything for my daughter.” That is when I remembered the question: “What does love feel like?”
There are so many different kinds of love: there is someone’s first love, there is the love between two people who have been together for fifty years and as much as they get on one another nerves they cannot imagine a life without the other, there is the love between siblings, friends, and then the love a parent has for their child. Love has different feelings and can be amazing and filled with joy and at times love can be scary and very difficult. We all have different ways we see and view love. I feel that love is feeling safe with another person. Chronic pain taught me who truly loved me and who did not. The one person I felt truly safe and loved by was my dad who always believed me and never gave up on me. If you love someone you just know it, there is not a way to explain the feeling of true love. As scary and difficult as love can be, it is the most magical feeling in the world. If you love someone who has chronic pain they do not need you to fix them or even find the right cure or medication. They need your love. It really is that simple.
The person with chronic pain or any invisible illness needs to know they are loved and safe. I will repeat the three most important words one can say to someone who has chronic pain: “I BELIEVE YOU.”