Heavenly Love

DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley holds her baby boy

When Austin was first born, I was taking a walk with my sister and my new baby boy. Austin was probably a week old. Claire, who had just turned two, was home with Shawn. My sister and I were talking about birth and love and all of the other big things you can talk about with someone you’ve known your whole life.

At some point, she asked me something about how it felt, now, to love two kids instead of one. While I don’t remember her exact question, I remember my answer.

“Well,” I said, “I love Austin, but if for some crazy reason I had to choose between them, I’d pick Claire.”

It just came out of my mouth. I was shocked by it once I said it, but I went on to explain to my sister that at that point I didn’t yet love Austin like I loved his sister.

I remember telling my friends about this conversation. They all assured me it was normal to feel this way when your second baby was so small. I barely knew Austin, and Claire had been with me for two full years.

My emotions still disturbed me.

I thought about this last week when I got a comment on my blog from a reader. In it, she wondered how it would be possible to get remarried and then someday be reunited with both her first and second husbands in heaven. Would someone be jealous? How would she pick between them? What about if her first husband saw his previous wife? How does it all work out, up there in heaven?

I told her I didn’t presume to know what happens in the afterlife. I’m a mere mortal.

But it made me think. I mean, I was only 38 when Shawn died. My dad is almost 72 and he’s looking great. So the fact that I could live to be 70 or 80 or 90 is totally possible. I don’t know if I’ll ever get remarried, or ever find another love like I had with Shawn. But if I did find another partner, what does that mean when we are all gone from this earth?

I don’t know, really, because again, I don’t know what the afterlife is like. I doubt it’s just a re-creation of life on earth (because how boring would that be?) but I think there’s more than just dust when we leave here. For the purposes of this post, let’s assume there’s a place where my spirit could somehow reconvene with Shawn’s.

What if there was someone else who was up there with us? What if that person was someone who I also loved with great intensity – a second husband or partner of some sort?

Here’s what I’ve decided about this crazy situation in heaven (or whatever afterlife you want to imagine): heaven has got to be a big enough place for all of the love you’ve had in life. Two husbands is a crazy idea on earth, but I think our spirits can handle it in the afterlife. Plus, if war and tragedy are not a thing that exists in heaven, I’m pretty sure jealousy isn’t there either.

In my experience, our hearts expand to hold each of the great loves that we have in this life. Of all people, I know Shawn would believe that.

I don’t know if I fully understood this before becoming a parent. But I found that my love for Shawn – that deep, all-consuming love – could extend first to my daughter and then to both of my sons.

I remember the day that it happened with my first-born boy. Austin was still so small, only a few months old, and he looked up and smiled at me and I thought, “I could never choose between you and Claire.”

That emotion stuck. Today, I may like one of my children more than the other two on any given day, but I love all of them with equal intensity.

So, I’d say to my reader that if she finds love again, I think she’ll find that her heart can be open to it. She can love more than one person and when we are all in the afterlife, I think that love will surround us fully. I think instead of jealousy, we’ll find that heaven is full of a type of love that is generous, open and expansive.

Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.

19 Replies to “Heavenly Love”

  1. I agree with you on this. I think once I had children I realized that as well. Youve spoken before of how Shawn wouldnt want you to live an empty life. He loved you and knew how you loved, he felt it and saw it. He wouldnt want you a magnificent looking 70 like your Dad without having had that feeling through ALL those years! My husband would feel the same way Shawn did. Love that intense is infinite.

    1. Yes – I do believe that Shawn’s spirit is out there somewhere, cheering me on. Will I be able to find new love? I’m not sure. But I do think that if I did, I’d be with all that love in the afterlife.

  2. Wow, this really struck me, as I used to think about this a lot myself. I have another tangential thought that helped me resolve this. Before my partner died (he was 25), I told him about a concern that I had. What if I lived till 85?? There would be a massive age gap in afterlife!! Pragmatic as he was, his suggestion was that when you enter afterlife, you get to choose how old you want to be (we had a good laugh about this – gotta love this end of life humor). But the more I thought of this, the more my conclusion became that there is no logic in afterlife. I think it’s about believing that we get to meet the people we love again. And in the meantime, we have enough other stuff to worry about than the details of how afterlife works.
    Uta
    P.S. Absolutely love your blog

    1. I love this – thank you so much for sharing! And yes – I think the idea that we get to keep the love without all the rules in the afterlife – that’s the best way to think about it.

  3. Sharm Running says: Reply

    If there is a heaven, and I tend to think there is, it will be all the wonderful things you said, and more!

    1. I’m so glad you think this way too!

  4. Beautiful!!! ❤

    1. Thank you!

  5. My husband died in an accident 8 years ago. He was 47 and I was 48. Our children were young. I didn’t date for many years. No time or energy!
    I began dating a year and a half ago and for the last year in a relationship with an understanding and compassionate man. With time and healing, I have come to realize that love will manage to sort things out in it’s own time. I have decided to leave it up to faith. Love is infinite.

    1. I love what you said here: “love will manage to sort things out in its own time.” So beautiful.

  6. This is so beautiful. I’ve read before that if your relationship was very happy with your spouse/partner who has died, the more likely you are to find another great love in life. Basically your heart is more open to finding love again. You know what it feels like to have that happiness and love, so you’re going to want to find it again. While I’m sure that’s not a scientific fact — and I’m sure it’s different in every situation — I do think it certainly connects with what you’re saying about meeting up in the afterlife with people we’ve loved. Love isn’t a finite thing here on earth, and I tend to believe that it will be even more all-encompassing in heaven.

    1. Yes! I really want to believe that because I’ve known great love, I’ll be able to find it again. I’m going to hold onto this thought of yours when things are tough.

  7. I can’t say conclusively that I believe there is an afterlife or a heaven, although I have had experiences that point in that direction but are too lengthy to go into here without taking over your blog post. 🙂 I do think that the loved ones we have lost would want us to be happy, and if that involves finding love again during this life we have left I’m sure they would be okay with it. If there is a spiritual realm, I’m guessing our earthly concerns would quickly evaporate and would be replaced by pure love and understanding. That’s my hope.

    1. Yes – this I definitely believe is true. Shawn wanted me to be happy, that much I know for sure. So, maybe someday, I know he’ll cheer me on in any future love.

  8. So much wisdom! Thank you for putting this perspective out there and leading us to think about it. I think that the love between spouses or a parent and child is the most profound love that we can experience on this earth. As a widower (two years out), I find it hard to fathom how I could ever regain that depth of love, now lost – although if I do, I have no doubt that there will be cheering from the other side. There is so much we don’t understand; there is a lot of mystery in anything spiritual. “For now we see through a glass, darkly.” I guess we’ll just have to have faith and see how it all works out.

    1. Yes, I think you’re right – for now, we just have to see how things work out. It’s hard not to know the future, but it’s also comforting knowing there’s someone cheering us on on the other side, no matter what happens.

  9. Laura Ernst-Davies says: Reply

    I think our loved ones are cheering us on, I’ve heard stories of spouses/partners who even express wanting their loved one to go out and find someone new after they’re gone. My first husband was taken from me too suddenly to have that discussion but I feel he put my new husband into my life specifically for me and he guided me towards someone who would help raise his children the way he would have wanted. I keep telling Tom that he and Jim would have been great friends if they had ever met on this side of heaven and yes, like others have expressed, I think Heaven will sort it all out for us, there is just no way for our mortal minds to comprehend it!

    1. Marjorie C Brimley says: Reply

      I love this story. Like you mentioned, I was one of those people who was told to make sure to eventually find someone new by my dying partner. (I wrote about it here: https://www.thecut.com/2018/11/its-complicated-dating-after-losing-husband.html) It’s not something I’m ready for quite yet, but I love that I feel free to find new love if it does come my way.

    2. Oh yes – I think the afterlife is something we can’t even begin to understand. And yes – my husband was one of those people who “Gave me permission” to move on, though I’ve still found it difficult. Take care. Those first few months are really tough.

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