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.