Love: A Basic Human Need

By Lila Herrmann

My mom passed away a few years ago. So now, just one more card or letter from her would be the greatest gift I can imagine. Romantic love is, of course, a delightful thing. But I have gained an appreciation for that love that is something more, that deep, abiding love that is all-encompassing.

Mom’s last few days on this earthly plane were spent in a hospital bed. Some might think that is horribly sad but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that Mom wasn’t alone. She was surrounded by her beloved family and gently cared for by compassionate medical staff. My mom had what some call a good death. In his book, This Is How, Augusten Burroughs writes, “If the death is a good death, there will be a bed. And the bed will be the whole world.” What matters is not where the bed is—home, hospital, hospice—but just the person in it and the loved ones there touching that person in some way … constant contact, as Burroughs says (St. Martin’s Press, 2012).  

It was, of course, heart-wrenching when Mom asked us to let her go. My response was, “Okay, you can go. We let you go. We love you that much; we let you go.” She opened her eyes and said, “You do?” I assured her we did. And I told her we would be all right.

Hours passed before Mom made her transition that day. We held her hands, stroked her face, kissed her cheek, rubbed her arms. We sang songs, mostly Christmas carols. Mom had been quiet but during “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” Mom shouted “Let me out!” Apparently our singing was not soothing. And in spite of the circumstances, we all laughed.

In one quiet moment, I held Mom’s hand; my sister held the other. My daughters patted her legs. And mom said clearly, “I will carry your love in my heart from now on.” None of us were able to respond, just sobbed into tissues.

Mom carries our love in her next plane. We carry her love here, channeled through her kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, brothers and sisters, friends, and on it goes … and it just expands exponentially. In 1 Corinthians 13, verse 13, it says “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Or as the Beatles said, “All you need is love.” It is that powerful, that enduring.

Studies have been done on orphans that fail to thrive without loving human contact, even though the basic needs of survival in the way of food, clothing, and shelter have been met. Turns out, love is a basic human need … a must for our very survival.