The old adage may be trite, but that makes it no less true: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. There is something about being apart that stirs our affections, that causes us to understand and articulate what we might otherwise have taken for granted. It is often only through a time of separation that we come to understand how much another person means to us.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is true when our loved ones leave us for extended periods or when they depart for distant lands. But “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is equally true when our loved ones depart this earth altogether. We learn that death does not cause love to die, but that in its own way, it fosters and amplifies love all the more.
And why shouldn’t it? In the distance that death interposes, we come to overlook old vices and delight in former virtues. Offenses begin to fade from our minds, replaced by memories that are sweet and delightful. A loved one was never so virtuous and never so much a Christian as she is in our memory. And then there’s this: our hearts are naturally inclined toward those who are weak. And who could be weaker than one who is drawing his final breath, one who lies in a coffin, one who is buried in the cold ground? Death displays the ultimate weakness and it moves our hearts in pity and love.
And so, though our loved ones are gone, we love them still. Though our loved ones have been taken, we love them all the more. Their absence makes our hearts grow ever-fonder.
But what of their love for us? Do our loved ones continue to love us even when they have gone to that Land of Love, even when they have finally come face to face with the God of Love?
I am convinced that they do love us still and I am convinced that their love, too, grows all the more. I am convinced that absence makes their hearts grow fonder, just as it does ours.
After all, they are still sentient, still conscious, still human, still themselves. The lives they lived are real, the relationships they formed are genuine, the experiences they enjoyed are authentic. Though torn from this world and separated from their bodies for a time, they are not torn from who they were. They are not whitewashed into new beings, not reset into people radically different from the people they were on Earth. The bonds of marriage may be severed by death, but not the sweet friendship of a husband and wife. A man’s son here will still be his son there, a woman’s mother here still her mother there. There is much we wonder about heaven and much we discuss or debate, but not the continuity of relationships, not the continuity of love.
And so, if we treasure all the sweet memories we once made together, wouldn’t they? If our hearts yearn to make new memories with them, wouldn’t theirs? If our mouths are crying out “Come, Lord Jesus,” wouldn’t their mouths sing the same?
It is a beautiful thing to ponder that even as we remember our loved ones with such tender affection, they are remembering us with hearts just as warm. Even as we long for the day when we can throw our arms around them, they long for the day when they can throw theirs around us. Even as we yearn for the time when what was severed will be restored, they are yearning for it too. Their love for us continues and their love for us grows, for absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.