My cousin’s son and his wife have a son, Jack Alfred. (At family gatherings, use of his middle name is required to distinguish him from his cousin Jack Louis.)

In my lamentably too few encounters with Jack Alfred, I find him a wonderful blend of serious and effervescent, inquisitive and definite. What I often observe in his interactions is a genuine empathy for others that is way beyond his four years of age.

I’m thinking of him as I’m thinking of Valentine’s Day — because Jack Alfred’s heart is definitely in the right place.

My cousins just experienced the illness and death of their Uncle Bob. They were wonderfully attentive to him on his journey “from death into Life.” All generations of cousins — my first cousins and spouses, their children and (when applicable) their childrens’ children — took loving care of Uncle Bob, a very gentle and loving man himself. Jack Alfred had made many trips to visit Uncle Bob and had been at family parties with him as well.

Although Bob was living in Chicago at the time of his death, he was to be buried in Indianapolis. So, after the liturgy of the resurrection, there was no trip to the cemetery for the family; the body would be taken to Indianapolis and interred there.

The liturgy ended, and Jack Alfred was seated on his Aunt Mary’s lap. “OK, Jack. We can go now.”

“No we can’t, Aunt Mary.”

“Yes, Jack. Mass is over. We’re going to leave now.”

“No, Aunt Mary. We can’t leave. If we do, Uncle Bob will be all alone.”

Okay, maybe Jack Alfred still has some things to learn about death or theology or … whatever.

But I’m sticking with Jack Alfred. I know, in the long run, no matter what he learns about “death or theology or … whatever” that Jack’s heart will always be in the right place. That heart of his will always feel for the other person. That heart of his will always reach out so no one will “be all alone.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jack Alfred. I hope my heart gets more and more like yours!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all our friends and companions on the journey! Let’s pray for the gift of tender hearts!

Sister Denise Wilkinson, General Superior