On February 13, 2003, Anne and I sent each other valentines, she in Anne’s Diary, me in this journal. In subsequent years, we celebrated each Valentine’s Day with a private affirmation of our love, but today I want to share it once again. We met in April of 1969, so this is our fortieth Valentine’s Day together.
Anne is sailing high now, her mind crackling with brilliance, her heart ripe with its offering of love. We are as happy as we have ever been. I well remember the dark days of 2004 when I was being told that she would be impaired for the rest of her life, and I was reconciling myself to caring for her. Oddly, it didn’t disturb me or make me want to give up. It took me, instead, into another place in my love. I was just so grateful that I would still have my beautiful girl, no matter how she happened to be.
I have always attributed her marvelous recovery not only to the power of excellent medical care, but also to the power of prayer, so I always try to include those of you who reached out to us in your prayers, in the folds of my love and gratitude.
This morning, we gave each other Valentine’s cards, then called our kids and wished them the delicious remembrance of this day. I remembered when our boy would make his Valentine for his mommy, and present it to her with big eyes of love. I remember, also, devising Valentines for my mother and sister, when I was a boy in San Antonio.
Today is bright and clear here in Southern California, and it feels like my love feels to me, full of light and clarity, edged by the distant mysteries of dawn and dusk.
I am thinking of another old marriage that ended last week, when a dear friend. John Gliedman, came to the end of his time here, leaving his partner of 35 years, Margot Adler, and his eighteen year old son behind. During the Communion years, John brought the brilliant rigor of his scientific mind to the situation, never laughing, never rejecting me, but always remaining the careful skeptic. So he takes my gratitude with him, my old friend.
Half of every couple will go on as Margot must, carrying the relationship in their heart. I tasted this bitter taste, so I feel great empathy for companions left behind. And none of us know what the future will bring, except that parting comes, but love remains.
What is love? When I went out to get the papers this morning, I saw a woman walking two happy, eager dogs. They sniffed and rushed, their eyes glittering with excitement as their pack progressed through the mysterious world. They brought ideas and instincts to their life together that were utterly different from hers, but their feelings for her, and hers for them, were the same. I have a friend who keeps a macaw. They have been together for twenty-five years, and even though they are entirely different creatures, she (the macaw) displays feelings, jealousies and joys that are familiar between any two lovers.
Anne often says that all we take with us when we go is our love, that everything else slips away and is forgotten. I think that love is the same among all creatures, that it is the hidden essence of reality itself, and that everything that does not contain it is a sort of illusion. Love is reality.
Forty Valentine’s Days is a fair number. I have an aunt and uncle who are working on sixty of them together, and in that context, I feel like a Valentine’s Day beginner.
Anne in her early days and Anne now. She was a brilliant girl who just wanted to be happy. She loves and appreciates men, and was the first girl I’d ever met who was like that. Her approach to life is to give whatever she can. She doesn’t worry about what she gets, and she doesn’t keep count. A person like that inspires great love, because you know that you must find her needs just as she will certainly find yours. Otherwise, her love would be alone, and love like that must not be alone, it deserves the best you can bring and, believe me, you want to bring it.
This is such a mysterious journey we are taking. What is love? What is loss? Certainly, it is part of love, part of the lavish richness of being that God has granted us.
I like to let my gratitude float free, to let it belong to all of life and all the world. And when I do that, I realize something. I am stll falling in love. I will always be what I was at the first moment I laid eyes on Anne, a boy just beginning, his heart full of the wonder of the mystery.
Now I bring to mind those who gave me their love and accepted mine and have gone on, and those around me who are just beginning, the children in my life. I invoke my gratitude for those who enjoy my books and give their time and thought to the mysteries we are all struggling with together.
I feel a prayer within me. It has no words and belongs to forever. Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends.
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