I realise I have written little in this blog that does not touch on death in some way or other. I have written less of love. Probably I write of death as one preparing for that moment of truth. I write myself toward it and around it as one not yet in it. The pursuit, neither morbid nor frivolous, is the necessary (if deplorable) corollary of growing up. If I write little of love it is because I dwell within it and have done all my days. But the third day of December arrives every year and it reminds me.
Here then, conceived on December 3 2017, is a love story.
My wife is married to a pleasant enough man. I’ve known him for a long time, and although I admire him generously, yet I concede he is not perfect. My wife has put up with imperfection, with hopes incompletely realised for 48 years. On December 3 this year she gave her spouse a card, upon which the following words appeared:
This is my wish for you…
Comfort on difficult days,
Smiles when sadness intrudes,
Rainbows to follow the clouds,
Laughter to kiss your lips,
Sunsets to warm your heart,
Hugs when spirits sag,
Beauty for your eyes to see,
Friendships to brighten your being,
Faith so you can believe,
Confidence for when you doubt,
Courage to know yourself,
Patience to accept the truth,
Love to complete your life.
Better than the average Hallmark homily, I thought. And indeed the name I read beneath these lines was Ralph Waldo Emerson.
But the platitudes of the great philosopher were not penned by my wife. I opened the card and read her handwritten message.
I won’t share those words beyond this: my wife commanded herself to love me for a further 48 years. I did a little weep for joy and for thanksgiving. And the words remained in me, resonating, lighting the damp and darkened world about me. We drove to the country to lunch as the guests of our recently widowed friend. Aged in her mid-nineties, our host prepared our meal with dogged independence and perfect accuracy. We sat in her sylvan retreat and we shared her sorrow. For the first time in our long friendship our host’s beloved was absent. Only love abided.
Outside the window the green world was soaked by unseasonable rains. Behind and above the green the world was grey. Suddenly my wife started: ‘Look!’ she said. I turned and looked and there, a glory of gold and green, sat a king parrot, nibbling the widow’s birdseed.
Love lit my night. I recited my morning prayers and read the Shema with its credo. Immediately following the words of that key formula of faith was a concrete Commandment. And the command was love.
I opened the novel* that my men’s book club will discuss tonight. The editor wrote: If the novel can be said to have one central idea, it is surely of love, the many forms love takes…’a passion neither of the mind nor of the heart… a force that comprehends them both.’
*’Stoner’, by John Williams