Can you love someone who is gone?

Can you love someone who is gone? Really. Can you?

I think the vast majority of people are saying, “Yes, of course you can.” Just because your loved one is no longer here, you can still love them. You loved them when they were alive, you cared about them, you hugged them; you nurtured them. But now they are gone.

But can you still love them the same way?

Perry and DadWhen it comes to parents, I think that is a different question. We expect them to pass before us. They were here our entire lives, they raised us, they actually taught us how to love someone. They gave us life and taught us our values and our morals, and we love them for that. Now that they are gone, we still visit them, we talk to our kids about them, and we still love them. We honor them at events, we have pictures of them, and they are our children’s namesakes. But I think it gets harder as time goes on. As many of you know, I lost my father when I was a young boy, just fifteen years old – it was over thirty five years ago. I still love my dad. There are pictures of him in my office, I talk to him once in a while, I post pictures of him for Veterans Day. I talk about him to my few friends who knew him, his words and teachings are still a big influence in my life, and I named my beloved son after my father. I still love him.

Perry 10006

My father, with Laurie and I, in Brooklyn.

But, how do we define love though? unfortunately, the memories of my dad are fading. I was young when he passed, and it was so long ago. I have thirty five years of new memories that have been replacing those older ones. Like all memories, those that I have with my father fade – and it kills me that I have a limited number of them. I look at pictures of trips we took, places we visited, family pictures, and I recall memories from them, but still, they are limited. So what do I love? Do I love the person who I only knew for a brief fifteen years, and who was taken from me so long ago? Or do I love the concept of the person who was my dad, and do I love the person who was in those memories, who happens to have been my dad? I am not really sure. I go to his grave, and sometimes I cry, sometimes I do not. I cry because he never got to meet my family, never got to become a grandfather, and he never got to live the life he wanted. Do I cry because I miss him, or because I miss someone who I loved so long ago? Do I still love him the way I loved my father when he was here? I really don’t know.

AndrewMom

Andrew and Dorothy were always smiling when they were together. Andrew never fought or argued with his mom – ever.

Now for the hard part.  My son. The relationship between a father and son is special. I loved my son so much for the twenty one years I had him. I never knew I could love someone that much, or care about someone that much, and be so concerned and worried when he was out, or when he did not call home enough. Now he is gone; there is no more physical relationship, there is no more hugging or worrying, or caring – of him physically. But do I still love him? I think anyone can answer that question – of course I do. I love him as much now as I did before, and probably even more. Dorothy says it all the time – she loved Andrew when he was here, he was her life, he was what every mother wants and loves. She says that she has grown to love him even more in the past two years. Her love for her son has grown deeper, and more profound than she could have ever imagined. Pam also says that she loves her Doug even more, now that he is gone. During his life, she loved him because he was in her arms, because he was her son, because he was hers. But now, she loves him even more because he is in her heart, he is a part of her soul, part of her forever – and she loves him more now than ever, and that love keeps growing each day.

Will that love fade over time, as the memories might? Or will it change over time and become something else? Who knows, but I doubt it. I know parents who are ten or twenty years out, and they still talk about their children as if they lost them yesterday. They still think about them every single day, and love them as much as the day they were born, and every day they lived. They are still their children, and will be forever; as they will still be loved forever.

So, to Marge, can we still love our lost children? Of course we can. We have to. They are still as much a part of us now as they were when they were alive. You can argue that they are more a part of us now, they are in our hearts and souls forever. And If we don’t love them forever, who will?

12 thoughts on “Can you love someone who is gone?

    1. Margaret

      Beautiful Perry, As I’m teary eyed, I can’t even imagine not loving my son ever.
      He is IN me as I was IN him!!
      Now, my father is a different story. My parents divorced when I was about 10. Best thing she ever did!!
      He passed 3 years ago, (I did go to the funeral) but really didn’t feel emotional. In the last 40 YEARS I
      saw my father about 8 times. So of course you can understand my feelings for him were not strong.
      I love him just because he was my father. Maybe he’ll meet my son in heaven.

      Margaret

      Reply
  1. Sally K;ein

    Your words echo within me, Perry, and I fully agree with what you have expressed regarding our beloved and dearly missed children being in our hearts and souls forever!

    Reply
  2. Susan

    Beautiful, heartfelt, thought-provoking words. I think the answer to your question is that it is unanswerable… I believe it is an experience within your heart that cannot be named or categorized. It is beyond love when someone cherished passes… It is a ethereal sensation… Inexplicable. Undefinable. Deep. Passionate. Forever.

    Reply
  3. Ned

    I understand more now the finality of Andrew’s death and the importance of your love for him. As you note, with most of us there is the hope that we will be loved by future generations, our children, maybe our grandchildren. But Andrew knew neither. He has his parents and sister and friends to love him forever.

    Reply
  4. Debbie Miron

    Perry, I enjoy your posts keeping your son’s memory alive–and for sharing his special qualities and spirit with us. Children sustain us. His memory will always be a blessing. I feel privileged to know you–and to know your son through your beautiful words and sentiments. Thank you again for sharing.

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  5. Jonell Restivo

    Perry,

    Love is elusive and lucky are the ones fortunate enough to actually experience it. Love is also fluid and has a double edge. Love is also powerful, it can create and can destroy. True love is also forever.

    Unfortunately, love and pain is a package deal. Sure everything changes and evolves including love. But you cant trust love either because it can be taken away as quick as blinking an eye. Love is a complicated emotion, it can be comforting and also extremely volatile, I now think twice before I will allow it into my life again.

    At this point being able to give love has become more, gratifying and most important its safer. Giving love and being loved are two completely different things.

    I am sure Andrew loved you, but you being able to literally love him, hold him, smell him, the list can go on and on especially for a parent is what love is all about.

    To your question can you love someone who is gone, I say absolutely yes. A memory of a place or an event and a number of other things fades away with time. But true love remains vivid and permanent because it lives in the heart.

    I have fallen out of love with husbands and stopped loving and caring for friends. I have also loved a person and didn’t like them at the same time but that’s a love that dissipates and fades away like a memory.

    I also believe your love for Andrew will continue to grow stronger because you cant release it, so it accumulates.

    Its your love, you own it but just don’t let it choke you, and I think you are successfully able to lessen the pressure with this page and I am sure in other ways too. Your pure love for Andrew can make beautiful things happen for other people and used in many other ways to make this world a better place.

    Love is powerful so use his beautiful energy, you don’t need to save all of it because it continues to grow. Allow yourself to give some of it away the same way you gave it back to Andrew when you hugged him and it felt so good.

    Sorry Perry that my comments are longer than others. I really admire your strength and feel the depth of love you have for your son. I am a psychological thinker and always fascinated how the mind and the heart are so connected, it can become a powerful tool.

    Always in my thoughts,
    Jonell

    Reply
  6. Carol

    Perry, I see where you are coming from and what you are searching for. I loved Dad very much and still love him as much as I did when he was alive. The difference is I now miss him and wish there was more. Will I love him forever? Absolutely! Will I love and miss my beautiful Andrew, as I do Dad? Absolutely! The void in my heart and the love I feel does not go away but life goes on.
    Think of all you are writing and please do what you have to do to stay well.

    I think you once wrote, you promised Andrew. Your family needs you for many, many, many more years! I love you!

    Reply
  7. martha

    With a parent passing, this is a normal stage in life it is expected and we are ready for this. With a child your are hit with the greatest grief beyond imagination. When you hear about the heart breaking and pain this is so true. I have felt a true pain in my heart and fell it breaking. Our children should be burying us not the other way.
    I loved my parents and as a child I thought this love could never be greater. when my daughter waah born I knew that that was not true. There is no love as great as the love of your child.
    It is almost 2 years for me and the sadness is always there. Even in a crowd I am lonely. No one can ever take her place in my heart.
    Trying to live the new normal life. Very difficult. I miss her so.

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  8. Becky Brown

    The pain of losing a child never stops. i lost my son in 05 and it still seem like yesterday .. Your love for your child never dies until you die. I miss my son more each day and on holiday it is so unbearable. I have fought cancer. Only God knows how bad I have needed him. The pain of losing a child never stops. Losing my mom yes I still love her and miss her . The same for my dad . I still love all of them.

    Reply

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