The Great Love: How tragedy begot a beautiful, new worldview 

By Carla Garrett

As I lay there beside my son’s dying body, my hand pressing gently on his warm bare chest, I feel a flutter of the heartbeat he still has left. I hold my breath as I listen for his next faint shallow breath – until there isn’t one.

It was in those last painfully precious moments with my seven-year-old son that I connected with something greater than the physical. It was through his death that I got to know the Great Love.

I am not talking about that butterflies-in-your-stomach kind of love when you kiss your crush or say your vows, or that instantaneous love when you give birth or even how you love chocolate. No, I am talking about the love that binds us, the love that is us.

The Great Love is an elusive love, not given nor earned, sleeping within all of us yet rarely awakened by human consciousness. Originating from our Creator, this love evades physical death and forever binds heaven and earth. These invisible ties of love form our universe. Unlike other vulnerable forms of love dependent upon external factors, this love can never be severed. It comes as a strangely comforting feeling, a fleeting moment of joyous intensity or a peace that surpasses all understanding. Our brain does not have the capacity to describe the unforgettable, ethereal experience that is the Great Love.

Jesus taught me about love. He showed me the greatest example of self-sacrificial love. He loved us so much he sacrificed his own life to save us. I was raised to: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” — Ephesians 5:1-2
I can’t think of any other moment where I have even come close to “being like Christ” than on the day I watched my son die. It was the ultimate self-sacrifice, a dramatic example of the proverb, “if you love someone, you will let them go.” To not have him, would be torture, but I did anyways. I let Xavier go.

When the time came to say goodbye, I had imagined myself screaming don’t go! Instead, I lovingly whispered in his ear, be free my beautiful boy. In my absolute brokenness, I gave my son the permission he was seeking to die. And that profound act of love awakened the Great Love sleeping deep within my soul.

When my son left this earth he took a piece of my broken heart with him, forever tying me to the celestial love he now is. I was not tied to his flesh and blood. Our connection was anchored somewhere beyond this plane.
These ties of love have transformed how I see the world now, evoking a sensation deep within me whenever I think of my son, see the brilliant pink hues of a summer sunrise or watch how the wind swims between each blade of grass. When you experience the Great Love, you are transported to a kinder, gentler world – perhaps what is heaven on earth – which ultimately changes your life perspective.

However, we often abandoned this love — the love Jesus intended — for the easier to feel superficial and materialistic love. It is easier to feel “love” when you are being held in your husband’s arms in a thankful embrace for the new car he just bought you, or kissing your sweet child goodnight after they happily obeyed your bedtime orders.

But what happens when you have nothing physical to love? What happens when your loved one dies? You are forced, like me, to seek this deeper love. I can no longer look into my son’s beautiful blue eyes so full of life and instantly feel that loving bond between mother and son. Now, I must find the source of all love to connect with my little boy in Heaven. The Great Love is the only way now to truly feel his presence. It’s not impossible, it’s just harder than the physical love we are all so familiar with. It’s a different kind of relationship, one I wish I never had to learn, but I am privileged to have. Had it not been for his death, I likely never would have experienced this depth of surreal love.

Although my first kiss with the Great Love paralleled that of my last kiss to my son, the love had been there all along. My faith was shaken, my heart was broken but it was ties of love that held me – our family – together through the nightmare of childhood cancer. Love was the only consistent thing when our lives were in pieces. It was there when we pleaded with God for more time, and it was there when the doctors said there was nothing more they could do, and it was there when we huddled together on the bed around my son’s lifeless body to sing his favourite song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It was always there even if a silent partner to our other, uglier emotions. If we were angry, it was because we were afraid to lose something we love.

Love is what makes us, love is what heals us, love is what motivates us. Love is what binds us together and love is what never dies. Love is with us at birth, it carries us through life, and it endures in death. The well of love knows no depth. A love so deep it floats. I believe in stories of the afterlife where you are pure, unbiased, non-judgemental, unadulterated love. A place where the word love is easily interchangeable with light.

How do you “get” the Great Love?

There are several popular books with great advice related to this topic, and depending on what resonates best with you, this inner essence of the universe can be called consciousness, soul, presence, energy or frequency. All of these descriptions, I believe, are ways to the Great Love. Although pain and brokenness are often associated with a rejuvenated sense of self and purpose, I don’t believe they are necessary to experience the Great Love. It was the crux of my story, but doesn’t have to be yours. Ties of love to a new, more beautiful worldview await you…