Giving Love Freely

Our neighbor Monique died last week. We are so sad to see her go.

The thing about Monique that endeared her most to me was her unwavering love, and I was most touched by her love for my son Henry. Monique had a love for Henry and his spark. She recognized this as a good thing during a season when I could not. I cannot express what it meant for me to have this dear neighbor ask about Henry every time I saw her — and hear her tell me, every single time, what a special boy my Henry was.

You see, Henry is a pistol. And there are times when I struggle with this fact. But Monique was always so quick to remind me how awesome it is to be a fierce lover of life — and how God can and will use that quality. And for me now, in the season of parenting Henry through — what a blessing to have someone be so quick to just love your child.

There were so many other things to love about Monique. I will certainly miss seeing her tiny little self power-walking through our neighborhood while saying the rosary. She was also quick to pass along an article she had read that might inspire me with my writing. She is the person who introduced me to Catherine Dougherty and the concept of the “duty of the moment.”

But it was her ability to love that inspires me the most. Of all the things Jesus might call us to do in our lifetime, what matters most is our ability to love. “If I have not love I am a clanging symbol.” Monique loved the person in front of her. When you were standing talking with her, you were the most important person in the room. She was a gem.

We should never be afraid to love. What it meant for me in those years of chasing a wild and crazy little Henry — to have this person remind me time and time again what a gift my son was — well, it got me through. Because usually I ran into Monique at some neighborhood gathering where Henry had once again escaped from my watchful eye and I was feeling frustrated and defeated. And she would come up to me and tell me, once again, how amazing my kid was.

I think it might be easy for older people to feel disenfranchised, to question where they fit in. And I can tell you that the greatest asset you have right now is the ability to love. If you can walk up to a parent in the trenches of raising kids, and you can offer a word of encouragement — that is pure gift. If you see someone like me, trying to gracefully parent teenagers — risk starting a conversation and offer a word of encouragement.

The young mom in the grocery store needs to hear she won’t always be chasing an errant toddler boy. The mother with teenagers needs to hear that what’s she’s doing is bearing good fruit. That family in front of you at Mass? They are beautiful and the mother or father needs to be reminded that all this hard work is worth the effort.

Monique was willing to say all those things. She loved Henry, but she had that same love for each one of my children. She wasn’t afraid to love and she wasn’t afraid to love extravagantly.

Monique’s friend Debbie shared at the wake that she had this vision, after Monique had died. She was praying about what to share and heard Monique say, “Give it all away.” And she knew that what Monique meant was love. To give love freely. To offer encouragement with abandon. To be quick to build up and listen and love love love.

Give it all away. That’s what Monique did. That’s the gift we all have to offer, and this love can change the world. It sure changed mine.

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