I Spent A Week At A Children’s Hospital & Learned The True Meaning Of Love

I’m accustomed to seeing love in places where others simply see what’s before them. It’s literally threaded into the fabric of my being. Here, there, and everywhere, I enigmatically see signs of love, from big to small, all day long, which provides a constant flow of positive energy.

I think this gift truly makes me the luckiest girl in the world.

To that end, I spent last week at a children’s hospital. And, in all my years, all of the love that I’ve collectively been so blessed to absorb pales in comparison to what I witnessed at that hospital.

The love between parent and frightened child, doctor and sick patient, nurse and concerned parent, caring colleague and knowing colleague, (the list extending to every last visitor and staff member) was truly overwhelming.

I witnessed true love in its rawest form and determined that love is undoubtedly, literally medicinal.  I watched it in serious action. I watched it comfort, inspire, provide strength, and heal. The power of love softened what originally seemed to be a very upsetting, nerve-wracking experience. 

But we all ask the same awesome question, “What is it? What is true love?”

My hospital stay showed me that love comes down to a prescription of six basic needs.

Commitment: There wasn’t a nurse I worked with who didn’t work beyond his or her designated hours just to make sure their patients were feeling as OK as possible and to make sure parents felt comfortable with the transition from one nurse to the next. They treated children with as grand a smile when they gave them a popsicle as they did when they were cleaning up the children’s vomit. They were kind to unkind parents. They were committed to healing under any circumstance.

That’s true love.

Healthy sacrifice: I met a little girl whose brother had to miss his Kindergarten graduation on account of having surgery and was simply devastated over it, so she gave up her class party to be with him during that time.

That’s true love.

Patience and trust: Parents in the hospital want answers within minutes of bringing their babies in, but the journey can be painfully long. Test after test can lead to new questions and subsequent tests. Parents must trust in perfect strangers to guide them towards their children’s wellness, and kids must trust in their parents’ word that all will be OK.

That’s true love.

Teamwork: In the hospital, parents and other family members rotate shifts of caring for their children around the clock, all the while managing their work and other kids at home. Spouses lean on each other for moral support or just to go get a breath of fresh air. Doctors and nurses work beautifully together, seemingly reading each other’s minds to meet the needs of the patient, no matter how dire the situation.

That’s true love.

Faith: Whether it is faith in God, faith in the skilled hands of a surgeon, or faith in the strength of a soldiering patient, when times get tough, the faith gets going. Faith was all around the hospital during my stay,  shared between roommates who may not even share a word, between newly acquainted parents hearing each other’s stories and offering hugs of strength, in the kind smiles from cafeteria cashiers… Here, faith was contagious. All the players in the hospital hold tightly to a faith that the children here will get better and that their families will endure this trying time.

That’s true love.

Sense of humor: Perhaps it is the clowns and the fishes painted on the walls or the extra-wiggly Jello, but despite the depth of illness here, you hear laughter – laughter among kids, parents, and staff. Kids laugh at their odd-looking poop, parents laugh at the fact their kids have become more courageous than them, and the staff was probably laughing at all of us. This is more than fine, as laughter heals pain, carrying us through even the darkest hours.

That’s true love.

So, back to that awesome question, “What is true love?” This is it. Right here. True love is about staying committed when it hurts worse than any pain you have known. It’s about unwavering stick-to-itiveness. It is about dedication to what you love, to what you say “yes” to… both when it is easy and when it is hard. It is loving because you can’t imagine not loving, not because you feel obligated to love.

True love is about being patient with yourself and your partner to see hard times through, to work through to the end with respect and kindness. It is about taking deep breaths and slowing down and knowing that answers may take time, but time always provides answers. It is about trusting in other people, believing your best interest is at heart.

True love is about healthy dependence.

It is about knowing you can fight on your own but recognizing that we can best fight battles together. It is about being comfortable with leaning on each other for support and communicating clearly, graciously, and fairly to stay in sync.

So, if you need a bit of reframing about what love truly is, if you need to restore your hope that it exists, or just a hug from a sick kid or a devoted nurse who is filled with this kind of love, visit a children’s hospital and see for yourself that love, when it is true, is pure and it is powerful… powerful enough to create healing miracles. I assure you it will be a shot like none you’ve ever had at a hospital before.

Here’s to loving healthy!  

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash


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