Hearts Just Get Bigger / by Sarah Schwartz

Of all the stories life has given me to tell, my favorite is the one about my big brother, and how I didn't know I had one of those until the summer I was twenty. It's a long story, but a good one. The short version is this; my Pops fathered a child in high school, who was given the life he deserved through adoption. And a few years ago, when my Dad went looking for him, he sat me and my sister down and told us about the sibling we never knew.

Congratulations, it's a boy. And he's thirty.

I don't have kids, but I imagine the love I feel for my siblings is similar to the kind of love that comes over a parent when they hold their little one for the first time. As much as the news of a big brother caught me off guard and raised a lot of questions, the only thing that truly mattered, even in those initial moments, was that I loved him.

And while I've always known my sister, my love for them is the same, without condition or reservation. Just the reality of a fierce, here-take-one-of-my-kidneys-I love-you-so-much-no-matter-what kind of love. (In fact, I endured the most painful 45 minutes of my life to have the Avett Brothers lyrics, Make sure my sister knows I love her, make sure my brother knows the same, inked onto my body two summers ago, which, despite it's sentiment, pretty much guaranteed that I was taken out of my parent's will.)

They say it takes two to tango, and the same is true to make a baby, so there is another side to this story, another set of family members in his life that are not biologically a part of mine. And as luck would have it, he has two sisters on that side as well.

While on the phone with him earlier this week, I jokingly asked if his other sisters are prettier or smarter or funnier than I am. Do you like them more than me? I inquired facetiously.

After hanging up, I thought of something my mother used to say about when my little sister was born. How, leading up to Kate's birth, she worried about not being able to love another baby as much as she loved me, her first child, but how the moment Kate arrived and was plopped up on her chest, she burst into tears, because, well, she knew.

Your heart doesn't get cut into pieces, she explained. It just gets bigger, makes more room.

The day I found out I had a brother, that I was actually a middle child and not an eldest, my heart expanded. It got bigger, suddenly flooded with more love than it held before. It didn't siphon off the love I have for my sister or my parents in order to love this other person, no, it simply opened the floodgates to reserves I didn't know were there.

The voice of Love reminds me of this in moments where a small, selfish part of me feels threatened by the existence of "other sisters." Gently, Love points out that this is not about me. That true, honest, nitty gritty love is about desiring the good of the other, not stroking our own egos or sense of importance. (Not to mention the fact that my brother's parents have been the definition of grace and selflessness when it comes to our arrival and existence in their son's life.)

What a poor imitation of love I believe in when I think of it as a finite source being divvied into miserly portions, rather than a wrecking ball crashing through our perceived limitations to make room for more.

There's enough. There's always more than enough. Our hearts just get bigger.