In our family, we sometimes tease each other when we are caught with our “love face” on. It’s this special expression that we often notice each other making. I sometimes see John with it when Nico says something adorably witty about farting or burping. The sheer pride in both of their faces just warms my heart. I’ll see Shaila make it when she is pretending to pummel Nico to the ground. I have seen Nico make it in those special moments when he puts his face up so, so close to my own and holds my cheeks firmly in his 3 1/2 year old hands before he plants a kiss on me.
The love face is kind of hard to describe. I guess it’s a slight clenching of the jaw, an over-exaggerated under-bite. The lips purse a little and convey a little more than just pure joy, but it’s this weird semi-smirk, I guess.
I think the most important aspect of the love face is the expression in the eyes.
It’s pure, unadulterated adoration.
We don’t always look at each other like that. How can we? What family really can? But when I catch myself in that moment when I feel my jaw doing that slight clench as I look over at my daughter, I might see my mirror image as I realize she has on the the exact same expression as she looks on at a cousin or her grandparents.
It’s so freaking special.
Last night I participated in something called The Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk, given by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention with 2,000 other walkers. The national walk is held annually in a different location each year. This year, the event was held in Washington, D.C.
I decided to walk initially because I lost my own niece to suicide in late 2011. But as the event got closer, I also realized I needed to do this walk not just in Amanda’s memory, but to acknowledge a deep depression I have struggled with over the years, which emerged after my first child was born. Over the past few years, I have been labeled so many things by well meaning physicians and have vacillated between so many diagnoses that I am dizzy. Yet, I still don’t know quite what my problem is. I just know that it often feels very lonely and dark.
There are so many things I can say about what I participated in last night. It was way more than just a 16 1/2 mile walk. It was an event for healing for those who have lost loved ones, it was an event of purpose for many who are dedicated to getting rid of the stigma around mental illness. It was an opportunity for some to look for peace, it was an opportunity to look for ways to give hope to those who struggle with mental illness everyday.
What I was most overwhelmed by was the number of “love faces” I saw, mainly as people told their own stories and recalled their own losses of children, siblings, spouses, family members and friends. Seeing that expression – the tremor of the lip, the involuntary clenching of jaw, the dampness in a mothers’ eyes, was an extremely emotional experience. But seeing these survivors still fight to bring hope was humbling and incredibly inspiring. The stories were tragic, but everybody at the event was full of light, no matter how dark some of their lives had been.
I am still trying to process the magnitude of this experience, but I am so glad I participated. I am grateful to have had the company of two of my friends, Jennifer Marshall from Bipolar Mom Life and Lisa Jordan from Lemon Gloria, both of whom have their own amazingly touching stories which draw them close to this cause.
To anyone who donated. Thank you. From the bottom of my still overwhelmed heart.
Making a big love face right now as I hit “Publish.”
P.S. I reached my goal, but raising awareness of this cause is close to my heart. If you would like to donate, please check out this page.