In the physical world, when we talk about an object being “full” of something, we usually assume that the weight of said object becomes proportionately heavier, the more full it is. It doesn’t matter what the object is filled with. Lead, sand, cotton, feathers… All matter has weight. Fill a glass with water, it becomes heavier. Fill a bag with sand, it becomes heavier. Fill a diaper with… Yeah, it becomes heavier.
When something is said to be “full,” it is understood that there is no more space within for further content.
Even outside the physical world, we use phrases like, “I have a full plate at work,” to indicate a heavy workload. When we grieve, we often describe feeling, “full of sadness,” or having a, “heavy heart.” Of course, these examples do not represent any amount of physical weight, but rather indicate that a certain bandwidth is at capacity; One’s ability to take on new projects, or the resilience to handle any more sorrow.
The one exception I have found to this phenomenon, is a heart full of love.
Love brings joy, peace, and happiness. A heart filled with these emotions feels the opposite of heavy. When our hearts are full of love, we feel lighter, like a balloon filled with helium. Humans have capacities for time, energy, and tangible resources. A mother who has multiple children does not love each new child any less than the ones who came before. While she may find herself at maximum capacity for the number of children she can care for (with time, energy, and tangible resources,) it does not mean she is out of room in her heart to love others.
I imagine we would be hard pressed to find someone who will tell you they are experiencing too much love in their life. Too much attention, time together, gifts, physical touch, words of affirmation, yes. We have capacities for all of these things. But humans have an infinite capacity to love and be loved.
Today, my heart is heavy with sorrow, as I learned of the passing of a dear friend from culinary school. Jeanne was a supernova in the darkness. A tornado of kindness. An unwavering touchstone of strength. She inspired fearlessness and loyalty. And today, my existence is a little (or a lot) less bright, knowing that she is no longer a part of it. Jeanne made me feel lighter, as though anything was possible. She was always there to help in whatever way her friends needed.
She filled my heart with love.
Today, I would like to honor Jeanne with a memory of a cake I made for her father’s 90th birthday several years ago. He flew B24s in Germany during WWII. On the side of his plane, was a mural of his wife, wearing nothing but a scarf.
I lament that there are not more photos of this cake ready at hand. Clean, black silhouettes of the plane and the German skyline made a perfect canvass for the focal point of the cake, and the only feature to boast any other color amid a gently clouded, blue sky: A tastefully re-imagined nude image of the pilot’s wife. I will never forget the tears streaming down Jeanne’s face when she saw it. The tears which her father would then shed when she gave it to him.
How might we cope with a heart so heavy with grief? It has been said that grief is simply love with nowhere to go. I wonder… Can we lighten the weight of our grief by pouring that love into others? Let’s find out.