People talk all of the time about love at first sight. Something about the way a person moves through space, their demeanor, that makes an individual fall in love with them. I’ve always taken that concept a bit further and wondered if it were possible to love someone you’ve never met – and I mean truly, unequivocally love LOVE someone. I’m not talking about loving someone the way a school girl loves a celebrity they will most likely never meet. I’m talking real, real love.

So, is it possible to love someone you’ve never met.. and someone you’re never going to meet – well, at least not in this lifetime. Is it possible to truly love someone who died before you lived?

I’d like to say it is possible…

My Grandfather, Thomas, goofing around in his wives nightgown.

My Grandfather, Thomas, goofing around in his wife’s nightgown.

Yesterday I checked my email to find a forwarded message from my mother. The text was short and sweet, she wanted me to see a few pictures of my grandfather that I had never before seen. Photos she had never before seen either. The way I felt when I opened them is hard to put to words.

Let me take a step back and explain. I come (partially, on my mother’s side) from a large Italian American family. One of those families that (figuratively) set places for the dead at the dinner table. So, even though my Grandfather, Uncle Gary, and Uncle Tommy were all deceased before I was born (that’s partially a lie, my Uncle Tommy died when I was really young. I have few memories of him.) I always knew they existed. I was always, always aware of their empty seats. I could tell you the favorite jokes and saying of each individual. Their occupations. Their happiness. Their struggle. Their stories. Their humanity.

I always understood, as best as a child could who hadn’t yet experienced loss, the pain this caused those in my family who had real tangible memories and love with these people.. those who were left behind with only memories.. and wishes for more time.. and more than enough grief for a lifetime. I think, originally, I thought I didn’t love these people, because it would seem a charade. I felt that my inability to have a true physical relationship with them made my loving them seem fraudulent. I felt that if I walked around feeling a love for these people I would in some way be lessening the love of those who truly knew them. And loved them for the moments shared.

But love cannot be divided. It cannot be taken away. It isn’t restricted by space.. or time. Love is ALL consuming.

But I didn’t always understand this, and that realization happened slowly.. and then all at once. I vividly remember a stark change in thinking, this happened in my teen years on a summer’s night when I sat in the kitchen with my father while he took me on a journey back in time to visit these people that played such a large role in his and my mother’s life – and I laughed so hard I cried. And then I realized my tears were partially tears from gut-wrenching laughter.. and gut-wrenching despair. This complete engulfing sadness was first felt for my parents — my mother who lost her family members and my father, his best friends. And next for my grandmother, my aunts, my cousins… everyone really. Everyone who could no longer share a laugh with these individuals who meant so much to them. And, then, slowly it turned to a sadness that is hard to explain. Sadness that I would never be able to meet these people in the flesh. I realized in this moment that the immense loss I felt over the absence of family members I had never met was based on something.. a fleeting feeling I couldn’t explain.

Was it L-O-V-E?

I felt this way again last night as I slowly opened each photo of my grandfather – laughing at one of him wearing his wife’s nightgown and feeling sadness when looking at the images of a man who was only (approximately) nine months away from his death. And I felt love. I loved the way the corners of his mouth turned downward reminding me of Marlon Brando in his iconic role in The Godfather. I loved the happiness and sense of humor the emanated from the proof of him messing around in a woman’s nightgown. I just loved him. Period.

My Grandfather, in the last year of his life.

And maybe that is weird? Maybe I am basing my love for these people on my own interpretation of who they are; since I was never able to meet them. Modeling them after photos and other people’s memories.. Maybe my images are falsities, and they definitely aren’t without error. Or, maybe, I am only loving them as an extension of the love I have for those individuals in my life who truly loved these people in the flesh. But the truth is this: I am an extension of these people. I always will be an extension of these people. And I do not need to meet them here to love them: because I am sure I will meet them one day in a much better place. And then my love can truly be solidified.. and reciprocated.

So, yes, I like to think know it is possible to love some one you’ve never met. Love supercedes space and time. Love conquers all – even death. And even though these individuals never knew me, never thought of me, looked at me, or imagined me.. I’m pretty sure they too love me.







(P.S. – Happy Birthday Grandpa, I most certainly LOVE you!)

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