I like hugs. Bear hugs are great. Neck hugs are sweet. Sideways hugs are ok, but they’re kind of lame. You know the ones, when you stand next to someone and just put your arm around their shoulder. Those aren’t real hugs. Real hugs are purposeful. They require wrapping both arms around each other and squeezing. Real hugs lift your spirits and help you forget about your troubles. Real hugs say, “I care about you.” Real hugs say, “I’m here for you.” Real hugs say, “I love you.”
I know real hugs. I learned them from Kristen.
I had grown accustomed to Kristen’s hugs. We hugged each other every day, sometimes as often as ten times a day. Every morning before leaving for work, every evening upon returning home, every little moment we could find when we were together. It’s just what we did to show affection and support for one another. We didn’t have to say anything. A simple and loving embrace said more than words ever could.
And then Kristen died, and the hugs stopped talking.
I never could have predicted all the things I would miss about Kristen. I couldn’t imagine the full impact her absence would have on me emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, or physically. Touching is part of loving, so I should have guessed her physical absence would be the most painful. We enjoyed holding hands and sharing kisses—what couple doesn’t?—but hugs were our favorite. They were our words.
So who was I without them?
I’m a hugger, after all, so I couldn’t function without my daily dose of hugs. I still got a lot of love from my daughter, who was four years old at the time, but nothing could replace Kristen’s warm embraces. I was so lost and confused without her, and felt even more alone and incomplete without her arms wrapped around me. I was afraid the hugs would never speak again. So I prayed for more hugs and then shared what I needed with my family and friends. I didn’t ask. I didn’t suggest. I bluntly insisted.
And the hugs came like a flood!
I soon began receiving more than ten hugs a day, some from family, many from friends and coworkers. And then I never could have anticipated what happened next, but my reputation for being a good hugger grew. Soon, others began coming to me in search of hugs. Everyone expected me to hug them. Any time I saw my friends at work, at church, or at home, they just assumed I was going to hug them.
I became a hugging machine!
The funny thing was that for my entire adult life, no one would have ever thought I liked hugs. I used to be so stiff and formal, afraid to share my God-given love of hugs with the rest of the world. Before Kristen died, I probably could’ve listed every person I’d ever hugged on a sticky note.
Now I’ve completely lost count.
Only weeks before, Kristen had been declared deceased, and my world was turned upside-down. I didn’t know where I was going or how I would get there. But the hugs helped me reconnect with my world. They communicated that other people cared about me. They told me other people were there for me. They said that other people loved me.
The hugs started talking again, and I’m still listening to what they have to say.