Love transcends distance

In November, 2019, my wife faced a health crisis. Both of our children took time from their busy lives and came to our home to provide support to us. Our son came first, managing to get to the hospital on the same day that the crisis occurred. Our daughter was living in Japan at the time, caring for a new baby, but she and our grandson came when Susan got home from the hospital. Being able to hold our four-month-old grandson was part of the healing process for both of us. On their way back to their home in Japan, they had a few days’ layover in Seattle and they stayed with our son and his family in their home at Clear Lake. Our daughter’s patience and vision for photographs led her to arrange her nephew and nieces on the floor, lying on their backs and looking up. She placed her baby next to them and took a photograph that instantly became one of my all-time favorites. I had an 8 x 10 print made of the photo, put it into a frame and enjoyed it for years. I put the picture into the slide show of images on my computer that show as a desktop background. I even had it put onto my bank card when our bank offered custom bank cards as a free bonus.

Time passed. We moved. Our grandchildren grew. When our daughter and grandson came to stay with us as part of their move from Japan to South Carolina in February 2021, she posed the grandchildren for another photo. It also became an instant favorite of mine, often displayed alongside the first photo of our grandchildren lying on their backs looking up at the camera.

Now we have five grandchildren and when our daughter and grandson arrived for a visit last week in what has become a family ritual the children were posed on the carpet at our son’s home, with the new baby added to the four growing grandchildren. With a quick eye for just the right moment, our daughter snapped another photograph that is a family treasure.

Yesterday as we were celebrating Father’s Day, there was a flat package with my name on it. I unwrapped it and it contained an 8 x 10 print of the photograph of the five children looking up at the camera. It is, in my opinion, a perfect Father’s Day gift. The photograph is on a shelf in my study where I can see it as I work at my desk. The previous photographs are part of the slide show on my computer desktop. As soon as I finish unpacking all of the boxes from our most recent move all three prints will be displayed together.

I commented to my family that a repeat of the photo each year would be just the right Father’s Day gift. Of course, in order for me to have the photo this year, our daughter and grandson had to be away from their husband and father on Father’s Day, which would not be fair every year. They visit every day on FaceTime, but it isn’t the same as being together so he can feel his son’s hug on his special day.

We raised our children with a sense of adventure, a love of travel, and the courage to pursue their lives and follow their hearts. It should not surprise us that they have grown into loving adults who are building their families in two different places. Right now, we have one on the west coast and the other on the east coast. At least, we are quick to say, we have both on the same continent.

It is a continuing lesson in a basic truth for me. Love transcends physical distance. We can love those who are not physically close to us. Relationships can remain strong and meaningful even when we are not able to be with each other on a day-to-day basis. It is an important part of our faith. Love never dies. We continue to live in love with dear ones beyond the span of their human lives. I keep thinking how much my parents would enjoy our grandchildren. My father died before our son was born and my mother died just before our grandson was born. But their love and care are a part of our family life and stories of them are part of every gathering of our family. Pictures of them appear on my computer screen along with the pictures of our grandchildren. When our grandson asks, “Who is that, Poppa?” he gets a story about my parents.

While we treasure the moments when we can be together face-to-face we know that love is bigger than the spaces that separate us. The lesson will be taught once again tomorrow when we go down to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to pick up a seminary classmate of ours. We first met Tony in 1974 as we participated in our first intensive class in theological seminary. We quickly became friends with his entire family. When he completed his doctorate, Tony and his family went back to Australia, but not before we had formed a life-long friendship. Over the years we have lived a long ways apart, but we have had a few rare occasions to be together face-to-face. We have been able to meet Tony’s grandchildren. In 2006, we were able to spend a month together in Australia. Both of our children were able to join us for that trip. The timing of our daughter’s visit is due, in part, to the fact that Tony is visiting the United States and she wants to see him and introduce him to her son.

It has been nearly 50 years of friendship and we have not lived on the same continent. Distance does not diminish the power of loving relationships. We can be close to those who live in different places. We can be family together.

There will be new photographs as we are together this week, celebrating the power of love to transcend distance and the joy of being together. They, too, will become treasures more valuable than the trinkets advertised in the father’s day flyers we receive in the mail. Even more precious than the pictures are the memories we share and the stories we tell.

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