I was asked recently in an interview why I sign my emails, letters, and blog posts with “big hugs.” As I began to answer the question I became aware that it had touched me. I felt the familiar warmth in my heart and heard a slight crack in my voice. I didn’t realize how deeply the question had impacted me, however, until I felt a tear sliding down my cheek — a graceful reminder of my mom, the significance a hug carries in my heart, and why I choose to share big hugs with those I come in contact with.

Throughout my childhood my mom worked in a series of children’s homes, day-care centers, and schools. Her job was to care for the children, with whom she connected deeply … especially the ones the world had forgotten. My mom was attracted to the misunderstood: the children who were too much trouble for their parents and teachers, the ones given labels and punishments, and those cast aside and given up on by the world. Like the three-legged dog she had rescued before I was born, she held a special place in her heart for the unloved and abandoned.

For me as a child, this was more than a little annoying. Our lives and home were constantly filled with other kids taking the love I believed was meant for me and my sister. I remember wishing, vehemently, that I could just have my mommy all to myself and make these needy beings who squatted in my mom’s heart go away.

Through her illness and death, though, I came to better understand my mom.  The part of her that just wanted to be loved joined with the part of me that shared the same desire and, together, we healed.

As I ventured into self-discovery and got to know myself better, I also developed a deep compassion for the life of my mom. The experiences of my life helped me understand the inner workings of a woman who never quite felt loved or understood by her own mother, my grandmother. Grandma was orphaned as a little girl and liked to recount proudly the story of sitting on the floor of the orphanage crying while refusing a doll that was offered to her because, “I wasn’t going to give the world the satisfaction.” Never having felt loved herself, my grandma was unsure how to love her daughter: she refused to hug my mom out of fear that she would hurt her… which, by not holding her, she did.

So my mom dedicated her life to loving other children, to insuring that no child would ever feel the stinging pain of not being held. In a world where work and stuff often take priority over small acts of loving kindness, my mom had a solution — big hugs. At each job she created a ritual for the children she cared for. As they arrived each morning, and before they left each evening, she would give them each a hug. The world might not love them, but she would insure that they knew, each and every day, that she did.

When my mom died, these children, hundreds of them, came to the church to remember her. A woman who was never famous or known outside of her community had so touched the tiny hearts of these children that they overfilled the church and stood outside just to have a chance to say goodbye. As my mom had done so many times in their lives, they wouldn’t let her go home without sharing their love with her.

So today, as you read those words “big hugs,” breathe deeply and take them into your own heart. Allow them to touch the child inside you. Experience them as they are intended, as a gentle expression of love from the grandson of an orphaned little girl who never learned to love … from the son of a woman intent on saving the world one child at a time … from me — the boy whose broken heart was mended, ironically, by the love he found after the passing of his mom. That’s why I say “big hugs:” as a reminder for you … for us all … that we are loved.

Big hugs of love,


  1. Pat Nichols says:

    Tearing up. I remember reading John Bradshaw books when I was quite young. If I remember correctly, he stated that the dysfunctional pain goes back 5 generations. For many of us, thank heavens & praise the lord, the “buck stops here”. Thank you Jason for sharing your beautiful story. Big hugs & blessings.

    • Jason Garner says:

      Thank you Pat. That theme of drawing a line in the sand was a very real experience for my sister and I after my mom and grandma passed. It was the starting point for a new story line that we write each day fueled by self-love and compassion. Big hugs – Jason

  2. Big hugs to you too, Jason. I love reading your blog. It is so refreshing to see a man who is in touch with his feelings. Thanks for passing on what you have learned. Hugs!!

  3. Jason your grandmother reminds me in some ways of my mom, although my mom was a misery school teacher. My momoved babies and toddlers. I guess she felt she could be huggy and loving to them. I’m the sixth of six kids. My mom loved us but after she 3 or so, she stopped hugging us. She stopped saying I love you. She baked brownies for PTA and cooked dinner every night. We were really the center of her life. But she couldn’t show affection. Only at nursery school, not to us. She couldn’t allow us to express our feelings, especially sadness so she’d say, don’t cry, it’s not going to help , whenever I would be sad. When I was 5 or so, our dog got sick and we had to put him down. When I started to cry, my mom stopped me. Not roughly or yelling. But just saying don’t cry it won’t help. She meant no harm. But it harmed me so deeply. She didn’t tell me she loved me until I was 25 and she was on her deathbed. It’s more than 25 years later and for the last year I have been suffering from severe depression. I cry all the time. Sometimes I wonder if I had been allowed to cry all those years ago, maybe I wouldn’t be so sad these days. Thank you for your beautiful writing. Hugs to you

    • Jason Garner says:

      Thank you for sharing so openly Jenna. I send you love and compassion. Sometimes we have so many tears inside that they just need to be released. Let them come while holding on to the fact that you are loved. Big hugs – Jason

  4. wendy st. john-devereaux says:

    big hugs to you Jason
    your blog is always so wonderful, and full of content that we can all relate to

    you mother was/is a great person, and overcame much

    whenever ian and I write something, on twitter or facebook, or any of the other places we visit, we always end with XXoo
    those kisses and hugs are out there for whoever is in need of them—and as a reminder that we are always sending our readers love

    peace, love and light to you and yours
    wendy and ian

  5. Everyone feels alone sometimes. Even me, who is for the most part an introvert and happy spending time alone. Maybe even especially the introverts – for sometimes we feel lost when dealing with people, and we struggle to make a meaningful and personal connection with others. When someone takes the time to send love in whatever form they do, such as a big hug, it makes a difference and it touches us. In turn, that renews our faith in people, which can be damaged by hurt caused over time. People in general tend to be selfish and look out for themselves. It’s a matter of survival – you worry about you in order to make it in the world. It’s a rare and special gift your mom shared, and now you in turn have learned to share. It creates a ripple effect – you share your love with us, and we in turn share it with others. Hopefully in this way we can change how we feel – to learn to love ourselves and one another. If someone else can love us, then we must be lovable. Rather than focusing on what we don’t have, we turn our attention to the love we do have; the love that has reached out and touched us. It changes our outlook, our purpose and our very lives.

    You are one amazing person to share your love and your hugs with us. So big hugs back to you and your family.

    Faith, hope and love, Kathleen.

    • Jason Garner says:

      Thank you Kathleen. We have an opportunity with those we perceive as selfish to look beyond the surface and to find the pain the selfish acts are hiding. By doing this we find a person who, just like us, is hurting and in need of a hug… and then we give them one. That’s compassion in action. Big hugs of love – Jason

  6. Big hug to you Jason.

    I believe that anytime we can share a hug, a kind word or just a smile, we are giving something wonderful that costs nothing – to someone who needs it more. That small thing has the power to change someone else’s life.

    Thank you for inspiring. kyla

  7. I do not appreciate being hugged by any people, though my friends and family give me hugs. I just let them do so. But I never feel good about hugs. So please, do not give me a big hug!

  8. Ray Khelawan says:

    Wow….this passage truly touched me. I’ve been struggling with my life since my accident, and it has caused me to look deeper into life….just into everything around me. I can relate to your mother on some level. My mom is the same way…she lost her mom at a young age and I don’t think she really learned or understood what it was like to be a mother because she was so young. Or it could just be a cultural difference. I never really got any loving hugs…..so I thank you for sharing yours. And I’m sending them back! I just found out how powerful and healing they could be!

    Big hugs of love!

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