On Sunday morning just after Leah died, my father and I were exiting the hospital hand-in-hand when he said, “She really loved you.” To which I replied, “And I really loved her.” But, then, I realized that my statement wasn’t true. I didn’t love her in the past tense: I love her in the present tense.
Love isn’t a toggle switch. It’s a rheostat.
Leah’s precious spirit isn’t here anymore; but, that doesn’t mean that my love for her toggles into the off position. It’s not that easy even with romantic love after it all goes to Hell in a handbasket. (And how many times have I wished that it was a toggle!?) I still love Leah and always will. She was a wonderful woman. My dear friend Joey died over 21 years ago. My friend Sandy died seven years ago. I still love them and think of them daily. Of course it’s different than it was when they were alive because love among the living can be nurtured and allowed to grow. Now, I love memories of my friends. Love for memories cannot grow. Its light dims to a comfortable glow. I’m not sure that “dims” is the right work here, but I think you know what I mean. The love doesn’t diminish – it doesn’t disappear, but it may not burn as brightly as it once did.
The conversation with my father reminded me of a scene from the movie Phenomenon. John Travolta’s character George is dying. Kyra Sedgwick’s character Lace is sitting with him. They have this exchange:
- Lace: I tried so hard not to love you.
- George: How’d you make out?
- Lace: Terrible.
- George: Hey, would you, uh, love me the rest of my life?
- Lace: No. I’m gonna love you for the rest of mine.
Corny as it might sound, that’s how it is. When we love someone, we don’t love them until they die. We love them until we do.