I’m still here in Kentucky with my grandparents. My mother’s cousin’s wife died earlier this week, and we drove about an hour and a half west today to visit him. He’s heartbroken, of course, and I had the opportunity to hear from his mom (my Great Aunt Sally) about how her health has deteriorated these past few months. This, in conjunction with various (repetitive) conversations I am having with my grandmother has really made me think (well, first the conversations make me cry, but after crying, I usually think) about life and love and death, and well… what else is there really?
Sitting there in the parlor, my grandmother admires my hands and asks me (for the seventh time today), “whose beautiful hands are these?”
“They are mine, and I get them from my beautiful grandmother.”
“Oh yeah, and who is that sweet thing?”
“You! You’re my grandmother!”
Laughing she says, “Well… I’ll be! Ain’t that a beautiful thing?”
“Yes, yes grandmother, yes it is,” I respond, squeezing her hand. I look over at my mom and smile, because that’s really all we can do now.
Across from us, my second cousin sits, no doubt wondering how he will continue living without his wife. Next to him is my grandfather who has continued to love and care for my grandmother despite her horrible accusations of him cheating on her and murdering people. I mean, really! The stories my grandmother comes up with!
One time, she told a delivery person to call the police because she was being held against her will, and won’t he please get help. By the time the cops showed up, she had completely forgotten what she had said to the delivery person. She has wandered to the neighbors and told them who knows what.
Multiple times a day I have to explain how, “No, I can’t eat those cookies. I can’t have gluten.” Two minutes later, I say again, “Yes, that cake looks really good, but I’ll pass.” The other day, we were baking a gluten-free cake and she came over and poured flour in! This, along with conversations about my hands, happens again and again, and it’s more than okay, because I love her.
What is real love anyway? As far as I understand it at this current moment (and that’s pretty important), it takes a commitment to love (place someone else’s needs above your own) an imperfect person unconditionally. That means that no matter what they do, no matter how sick they get, no matter how crazy or mean or old, you still love them… even when you don’t feel like it.
How much of this love is a choice? I haven’t had the experience of being married, or even a serious relationship, but here’s what I know about loving my family and my friends. It’s not always easy. It’s not always pretty, and sometimes it’s downright difficult and annoying. People often dismiss love as just an emotion, or for weak people or cliche people or grown up people who have time for it or are ready for it. Some think it comes easier for some than others, and they make excuses and build walls either keeping Love in or out. I know I do for myself and for others. But when it comes down to it. Love is a choice. It’s a conscious action that we must choose to follow through on.
Despite having grown up in the church and despite the fact that I live my life from a christian worldview (where I strive to worship the creator of the universe, and love my neighbor as myself, etc. etc.) I fight it, question it, and doubt it every step of the way. But, I read on a friends blog the other day a quote from Tim Keller which only reinforces my agreement with the Bible’s description of love,
“Therefore what the Bible means by love is a commitment. At some point love is a decision to serve somebody and be committed to somebody regardless of your feelings and regardless of how that person acts…. At some point, you make a decision- I am going to love this person. Your feelings will always come and go but the problem is a lot of people don’t get married because they are sure that if this person is ‘the one’ that my feelings will never ebb. If this is ‘the one’ then I’ll just know it’s ‘the one’ because I’ll never have any problem. I will always feel like giving myself to that person. You will wait ‘til hell freezes over if you wait for that. Love is an action first that leads to feelings not a feeling that leads to an action.”
I’ve seen this in my grandparents life, and today as I watch my cousin grieve from across the room, I watch them both, my cousin and my grandfather, hoping only that someday I will love someone as well as they do, and that you will too, whoever you are.
And that goes for loving life too. People often dismiss me as naive about the world because I choose to wake up every day (or as many days as I can) and love my life despite anything. The people I want to tell this too most likely are not reading this, but just because I love life doesn’t mean my life is easy. Loving (people and life) is a struggle every day. I know these are just words in cyberspace but right now my heart is wanting to take anyone who thinks otherwise by the shoulders and shake them. I’m losing my words and my teeth are starting to really hurt, so I’ll let others say it for me,
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is to live inside that hope.” – Barbara Kingsolver
“I don’t know how long I can do this, he said. I think the universe has different plans for me & we sat there in silence & I thought to myself that this is the thing we all come to & this is the thing we all fight & if we are lucky enough to lose, our lives become beautiful with mystery again & I sat there silent because that is not something that can be said.” – Storypeople