Published in 1986 and with heart-rending illustrations by Sheila McGraw, “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch is a 32-page story of a boy becoming a man – from infant to toddler to kid to teen to adult – all while his mother lovingly recites the same poem to him :
I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be
Over the years, snapshotted in every stage of life, the mother goes into the boy’s bedroom and serenades her sleeping son with this poem, regardless of how big or small he is, while holding him in her sweet embrace. Then one day the elderly mother calls her son on the phone to tell him that she’s very old and very sick, that she wants to recite the poem to him again but doesn’t have the strength to finish it, and that he should come see her immediately. When he arrives, her baby, now a grown man, holds his mother in her arms and recites the touching poem to her once last time before returning to his own home to cradle his baby and recite the same poem all over again, thus creating the continuity.
In just a few short pages, each perfectly captured, the circle of life whizzes by. *SNAP* and it’s all gone in a blink. But why does it go so fast ?
It goes so fast because it is so fast. Forty years in the grand scheme of the cosmos, or even human history, is but a snowflake in the eternal Rocky Mountains. That the hours of any individual day might seem long to us while we’re present in them is but a function of our own overactive minds, but that they seem so short in retrospect is because they really are. A lifetime just isn’t that long a time. Even in computer times, where leverage overfloweth and opportunities abound and the impact that individuals can make has arguably never been greater, it still doesn’t take very long for the circle to come back around. Just a quick flip through this supposedly innocent bedtime story makes that reality felt all too viscerally.
It gets me every time! Not least of all because my parents read this same book to me lo these many years, and now I’m reading it to my boys. I try to choke back the tears as the boy in the story holds his mother close, but it just feels like reading my own parent’s eulogy… I try not to pause, to lose my cadence while reading… and I barely manage. It’s all I can do to tuck my own boys into bed, with gritted teeth, a frog in my throat, and damp cheeks, kissing them on the head just a little more tenderly than usual.
Thankfully, I’m not holding my parents in my arms just yet, reciting this poem, but that day will come.
And reading “Love You Forever” makes it feel like that day is already here.
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