Love is viewed a lot of different ways.
It can be a flimsy thing, something Hallmark-carded for the purpose of being sweet or schmoopy.
It can be sentimental, conjuring up images of times long past, picture perfect moments that may or may not have actually happened. Nostalgia has a tendency to smooth over the bumps or tension that could smudge the feeling we want to maintain or produce.
Love can be steamy, a chemical wash over the brain that makes us drive long distances late at night, make us bold (or stupid) and disrupt our focus and productivity.
It wasn’t that I didn’t feel or experience love, but for a very long time I resisted what I saw a the softness of people who cried at commercials and movies, dismissing it as annoying, flighty, or weak. I might have thought of it as being stereotypically female, and there are few things that make me bristle more than fitting a stereotype.
Isn’t it too bad when we cut ourselves off from something too soon, before we give it a chance to come into itself fully?
I may be speaking out of turn or again, too soon, because I’m not that old, but I’m starting to think maybe grief exposes the rest of circle of love. The full expression of love’s strength and it’s power that transcends space, time, or physical presence is experienced when you lose someone you love deeply. For me that’s my dad.
It’s easier to talk about at this point, three years out from his passing, but that doesn’t mean everything’s fine. I’m actually surprised by how difficult it is, especially around dates of significance and big holidays. It continues to surprise me. I wipe away sneak-attack tears and say to myself, “Gosh, I thought I was doing better.”
“Better” in the world of grief is a hard thing to quantify.
It’s definition can mean so many different things. Are you comparing “better” to before your loved one passed away? Are you comparing it to when they were sick and you had to watch as they received treatment/surgery or grappled with the decisions around that treatment? Or did you lose your loved one suddenly and you’re comparing it to what looks like the bliss of still having them in the world? It’s not really a fair comparison is it? Because after you lose someone, everything changes. There’s a before and an after. It’s a firm mile marker, a gate through which you’ve been forced to pass, and you don’t ever get to go back through that gate.
The kookoo thing about getting a bit further out from that gate is the pain of distance.
Here you are, still around by some cosmic mistake or the luck of the roulette wheel, and every month that goes by is a month they were supposed to be with you, every month is a month further out from the last time they were with you, is a month further away from your shared experiences and memories, another month of them missing out on being part of the events of sharing a life together.
However…there is a strange, surprising discovery I’ve made. Maybe you’ve already figured this out but it’s news to me.
You’ve heard a million times that phrase, “I’ll love you forever.” or “Love never dies.”
I’m starting to see how that can be actually true, not just a cliche.
There are people who honor their ancestors, who build traditions around honoring the memory of people who have gone on before us, but in my traditions we never really did that. In my tradition we might tell funny stories or speak with pride of accomplishments but that was the extent of it. It’s possible other people in my family or community were doing more than that privately (and I’d never fault them for that need for privacy), but it was never passed on nor shared with me.
I’m beginning to see how, if we choose to, we can stay connected to those who are no longer with us.
Turns out there’s some truth to the sentimental saying, “They’ll live on in our hearts.” See how I could have missed it? It’s too easy, too schmoopy, too hallmark-y when you say it that way.
However, when you see it in context of transcending space and time, it’s a whole different thing.
What if, in a mystical, cosmic way, Love really never dies? It just changes or becomes fully itself. Unfettered and untied to physical constraints, it passes into the metaphysical realm of being, which allows it — Love — to exist everywhere, all the time.
Why not? Why couldn’t this be true?
Think about the power of Love, the powerful force that would make you cross deserts, climb mountains to be with one you love or save them from some imminent danger. Think about the motivating force of Love that draws out our most sacrificial selves. Think of a life spent in cultivating that energy, a life emitting that unmeasurable volume of Love. What if that never dissipates but merely changes form, an invisible radio wave we have no physical scientific instruments for and yet have our gut, our intuition, our spirit that rings, prickles, warms, quickens to that force.
I’ll leave you with that thought for this second week of Advent, when we focus on Love. This is no dime store Love we celebrate. This is a Love eternal.