Every night Rebekah and I would play this game. As I tucked her into bed, she would say, “I love you” and I would say, “I love you more”. She would then say, “No, I love you more!” and we would go back and forth several times as I kissed each of my kiddos and pulled the blankets up to their chins.
I would give anything to play this game again.
She meant it. She really did love me. She loved me in the same large, unreserved way that she felt all of her feelings. That blond-haired princess of mine was all sunshine or all rainclouds. There was no in between. She felt her feelings with everything inside of her petite frame. Occasionally, her anger at her brothers boiled out of her mouth like a volcano. One expression of her love for me are the pictures she drew every day- little girls and puppies, flowers and stars, monkeys in a cage, always with “I love you Mom” in bright letters scrawled across the top. Never small letters in the lower right corner. Always bold, to be sure I didn’t miss it.
The evening before Brett’s trips would find her lying in her room drawing a picture to put in his suitcase. She would try to hide it to surprise him when he got to his hotel room. They must have been a ray of sunshine in an otherwise impersonal space away from home. A piece of us, a piece of the hearts he was away from, a piece of a little girl who couldn’t wait for him to come back to her.
After Joshua was born via c-section, I was in a lot of pain and our first floor bathroom was out of commission. Rebekah would hold my hand as I walked up the steps, one slow step after another. She waited on me hand and foot, bringing me water and chocolates before I even knew I wanted them. She slept next to me and woke up smiling with each of Joshua’s tiny squawks.
Joshua was her pride and joy. She beamed as she bragged to friends about his latest milestone or antic. She snuggled on the couch with him and read to him, bribed him into eating his green beans, and danced around the house with him. He followed her faithfully and did everything she did, growing in the love she poured into him.
At 17 months apart Rebekah and Caleb were the best of friends and the worst of enemies. They chased each other through the house as soon as she could crawl. They would throw the pots and pans out of the cupboard and then climb in and shut the doors while giggling ‘Come and find us!!’. They challenged each other to run faster, ride their bikes harder, and climb the tall pine tree higher. They built stores and restaurants out of legos, laughing the whole time. They fought when Rebekah didn’t want to play outside or when Caleb attacked her Barbies with his fleet of plastic insects. She spit hurtful words, he stomped and slammed his door. They were learning lessons we all have to learn, in a safe place and with each other where they knew they would be loved no matter what they did or said.
She would try to make Micah shapes out of pancakes. The hearts she could do but the dog took a bit of imagination to see. She was the one he went to when he had a knot in his shoe or couldn’t open a box of cereal. She was always there for him, encouraging him on.
We have a huge hole in our family now. All of her energy, her affection, her enthusiasm, is missing. We are all struggling to know what to do with that hole.
Maybe Rebekah is teaching me something. She’s telling me to love big, to stop being cautious and concerned about what other people think. She’s teaching me to pour my heart into my friends, neighbors, family, and those I’ve only just met. It is no mistake that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. I have only begun to understand what that means.