Notes on Love and Death

I think sometimes that it would be nice to love and be loved one more time in my life. I'm not at all sure most of the time that I'd be up to the challenge, however. I wonder if I have enough left to give or whether I can trust enough to accept what another offers. Love is risky and I've become more and more risk adverse. But, like you, even with the hurts and/or disappointments, I wouldn't have missed the love I've known. Love is empowering, there is no high like it. Where there is love, anything seems possible.

Witnessing death, OTOH, is debilitating. It shakes our faith. It reminds us of how insignificant we really are and how silly and useless all the trappings around us are. When you witness death, especially of a loved one, you realize how unimportant the unimportant things are. While participating in love expands us, witnessing death reduces us. Love makes the world around us a beautiful place, death reminds us of how ugly it can be.

Putting it succinctly, death sucks, love is to savor.

Posted by Sara (Pal2Pal) at August 27, 2009 1:25 AM

. . . and Love is jealous as the grave.

When Love finds us, it devours us just as surely, unmasks our humanness just as completely, knows all our worst fears, and mocks us just as painfully. And yet, like Death, we are inexorably drawn to experience it.

Why more of us don't "rage against the dying of Love's light" is the greatest mystery.

.

Posted by Joan of Argghh! at August 27, 2009 3:54 AM

Death ends all pain. Love does not. Death is for an eternity. Love is not. Death does not come with any strings attached or expectations. . Love does.

Posted by Cilla Mitchell at August 27, 2009 6:50 AM

A poetic follow-on to your opening paragraph:

In every government, though terrors reign,
Though tyrant kings, or tyrant laws restrain,
How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!

From Oliver Goldsmith's Traveller (1764)

Posted by ELC at August 27, 2009 7:50 AM

Gerard, whatever your future may hold in terms of one-with-one love, love has not stopped using you. Your writings and photos bring so much wisdom and pleasure to us out here. And your friends and family surely will say you have love aplenty to grace their lives.

I must politely and partly disagree with Sara, and with Cilla. Death is a waypoint, but never an end. Neither is it the negation of what a person was in life. And while death can shake our faith, often what faith needs is a little shaking and refocusing.

True, death shows us how meaningless is the "stuff" with which we are surrounded. And that is perhaps the most important service death does the living. It reminds us to put away the fixations on things, the worries about money, the negative and harmful people, and give our lives to what matters...

Death does not end all pain and is not forever, but moves us to unimaginable new kinds of pains and pleasures. Love may not end all pain, but it gives meaning to suffering. Love may not last forever, but it surely transcends death and makes itself known far in space and deep in time from where it originated. And love can be 'No Strings Attached.' Most parents and countless lovers know that.

St. Francis said that work is love, made visible. I believe that our world, the laws of physics and human nature, our strivings small and epic for what is true and right and good, the fact that we are born and must die; all are God's love made visible.

I am frightened of the evil men do, and repulsed by those who needlessly bring death to another person. But death itself does not frighten me, even though I have seen much of it. It comes from God's hand, and like all His other waypoints - coming of age, marriage, childbirth, parenting, loss and grief - I know I will not understand it until I have it done.

Death always comes to the party, and he will always want to lead. It is wisdom, not fear, that allows us to see that as a good and necessary thing; and at the proper time, to follow graciously.

Posted by AskMom at August 27, 2009 9:47 AM

Love defies death because it lives strong long beyond the grave.

Posted by SallyW at August 27, 2009 9:48 AM

I will not tread here.

What can we know?

Only that we don't.

And that to follow graciously

is perhaps too much to ask

of this human heart.


Posted by cathy at August 27, 2009 10:01 AM

"What is it about? Like all Greek songs, about Love and Death." -- Melina Mercouri, Phaedra

I meant to include this in my comment last night and forgot. Your quote from "Phaedra" in the context of your post hit home. My first love, that love you never really get over or forget, gave me the "Phaedra" album as his first gift to me. I don't recall the why of that particular gift, but I do recall my Mother's reaction. I guess she thought it an odd gift to give to a teenage girl who up to that time spent most of her time listening to Elvis, Ricky Nelson, the Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul and Mary.

Posted by Sara (Pal2Pal) at August 27, 2009 12:49 PM

Cheer up my good man.

Posted by thud at August 27, 2009 3:08 PM

While there is still life, there is the possibility of love. First learn to know and love yourself, then you can freely love another human being.

If you cannot love yourself, then stick with loving the company of animals. Dogs and cats supply affection even to those who are so wounded that they are not able to form relationships with others.

Talent and intelligence do not equip one to love and be loved in return. Integrity does. You just have to discover how to repair it.

Posted by David St Lawrence at August 28, 2009 3:26 AM

Au contraire, my friend - you 'get it'.

The man who does not abandon the dying - gets it.

The man who steadies another as they are bludgeoned by the horror of loss - gets it.

As for romantic love. It's enough that you've had it and long for it, that you have been and may again be lost and dazzled in another.

Melding with another soul is the ephemeral antidote to the terrible fact of our inevitable end.

What's to understand about love?

Simply that it shelters us from the fact of our essential loneliness.

What could be more desirable?

What is more worthy of stumbling about for, and rolling down hills of despair in hot pursuit?

Posted by Cathy at February 15, 2010 9:03 AM

I shall link thee, and increase thy readership by roughly three wandering souls this day.

This is a hell of a nice piece.

Posted by Andy at February 15, 2010 9:37 AM

You'll like this. I'll do the introduction.
Nina---Gerard.
Gerard---Nina.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZm0jYXZ_2I&feature=related

Posted by Deborah at February 15, 2010 10:31 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiJ-KMotjME

Plaisir d'Amour

Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment,
Chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie.
J'ai tout quitté pour l'ingrate Sylvie.
Elle me quitte et prend un autre amant.
Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment,
Chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie.
Tant que cette eau coulera doucement
Vers ce ruisseau qui borde la prairie,
Je t'aimerai, me répétait Sylvie,
L'eau coule encore, elle a changé pourtant.
Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment,
Chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie.

The Joys of Love
The joys of love are but a moment long,
The heartache of love lasts for life.
I have left everything for ungrateful Sylvia,
But she left me and took another lover.
The joys of love are but a moment long,
The heartache of love lasts for life.
"As long as the water flows gently
To the stream that borders the meadow,
I will love you", repeated Sylvia to me.
The water still flows, yet she has changed.
The joys of love are but a moment long,
The heartache of love lasts for life.

Posted by Jewel at February 15, 2010 10:35 AM

Musical notes on Love and Death:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zgr7ndNuko

Posted by Jewel at February 15, 2010 10:49 AM

Thank you Jewel. Thank you Deborah.

Posted by vanderleun at February 15, 2010 11:00 AM

Death doesn't necessarily stop all pain. If you end up in hell, it's just the beginning of pain.

Posted by Marie at February 15, 2010 3:56 PM

This reminds me of what Paul said regarding love.

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

And, so ...

At the end of life, three things remain: faith, hope and love. The reason love is the greatest is because it is the only thing that will extend beyond the grave. (Who needs faith after he sees God and who needs hope after he's obtained the prize?) God Himself is love and spiritual love is eternal.

If all our love is given to things carnal, we will certainly fear death and the end of all we love. God intends that we develop a love for things eternal in this life. If we accomplish that we have much to look forward at the end.

This is what my mind understands, but my spirit struggles mightily to fulfil.

Posted by Eric at February 15, 2010 5:58 PM

Thanks Eric. That's a beautiful passage and response.

Posted by vanderleun at February 15, 2010 10:44 PM

Gerard, I worked a couple of years as an EMT in a high-trauma, wrong side of the tracks big-city hospital. Or they may have worked me.

All I know is that until death takes me, I will love as.much as is humanly possible. Love is the most we can imperfectly do to keep death at bay, at least for a time.

You are loved by many, my friend.

Posted by WWWebb at February 16, 2010 2:26 PM

love is like tripping out on drugs.
Under the influence you feel omnipotent and clairvoyant. Afterward... fill in the blank)

Other loves are easy, comfortable and forever.

Posted by rjr at February 16, 2010 10:28 PM

"I'm still working out what I meant when I wrote that. It'll take me life plus 99 years."

Any possibility of time off for good behavior?

Posted by Francis W. Porretto at February 14, 2011 2:33 PM

LATE FRAGMENT

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

~ Raymond Carver

Posted by shoreacres at February 14, 2011 4:13 PM

Nearly some 38 years ago, while doing missionary work in Nicaragua, I ran across the poem "Lo Fatal" by Ruben Dario. It is the only Spanish-language poem I have ever memorized, and the only one I've ever translated.

Lo Fatal

Dichoso el árbol, que es apenas sensitivo,
Y más la piedra dura porque esa ya no siente,
Pues no hay dolor más grande que el dolor de ser vivo,
Ni mayor pesadumbre que la vida consciente.

Ser y no saber nada, y ser sin rumbo cierto,
Y el temor de haber sido y un futuro terror…
Y el espanto seguro de estar mañana muerto,
Y sufrir por la vida y por la sombra y por

Lo que no conocemos y apenas sospechamos,
Y la carne que tienta con sus frescos racimos,
Y la tumba que aguarda con sus fúnebras ramos,

¡y no saber adónde vamos,
ni de dónde venimos!...

-- Rubén Darío, 1905


That Which Ends

Blesséd be the tree, thick-skinned and no thought giving,
And more blesséd the rock, with no thought left to give,
For the greatest pain of all is the simple pain of living,
And the greatest sorrow known is just to know we live.

To be and to be ignorant, and be without a clue
Save for the fear of what has been and what is yet to be…
And the terrifying certainty that death is one day due,
And the agony of life and of shade that lets us see

All that we don’t know about and all that we might fear,
And the flesh that attracts us with its clusters ripe and free,
And the tomb that awaits us with its branches dead and sere,

And not to know what waits us there,
Nor how we came to be!

-- Spanish original ("Lo Fatal") by Ruben Dario, 1905; translated by Bruce F. Webster, 2006

Posted by bfwebster at February 14, 2011 5:11 PM

I would note, by the way, that Dario's poem doesn't reflect my own outlook on death or love, though it remains one of my favorite poems, Instead, here's a poem I wrote for my wife a few years into our marriage that reflects my own views:

Two Years On

[To Sandra, on the 2nd anniversary of our temple sealing, 11/05/90]

Two steps towards eternity
Widdershins about the sun,
A dance of light in time and space
That leads beyond.

Threads of glory wind around
And bind us into unity,
Pulled by love’s accretion to
Celestial singularity.

Natural as gravity —
As others note with but a glance —
Our lives collide and coalesce.
But oh! the fire in the dance!

-- Bruce F. Webster

Posted by bfwebster at February 14, 2011 5:18 PM

I was going to say love that ends badly is worse than death but your last line stopped me in my tracks. Love that ends that way is something different altogether...

Posted by RedCarolina at February 14, 2011 6:59 PM

"I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

Life without Love, Gerard?

All thats left is the maintenance of living, which makes eating, sleeping, tying your shoes, going to work and other mundane tasks, repetitiously annoying and inconvenient .

One things for certain is that Love sure does add color to the world.

... and thanks again for this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVuUwvUUPro

Posted by cond0010 at February 14, 2011 8:26 PM

Love frightens me because, unlike death, love cannot be understood. Love can only be given, gotten, taken or dropped.

You could replace the word "love" with "grace" and still have the same meaning.

Posted by Borepatch at March 6, 2011 9:15 AM

There are different types of love. Romantic love is necessary to continue the species. It's wonderful until it isn't. But, as you say, "I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

There is the love of friendship. Caring for another kindred soul because we enjoy their company. At its best it warms us and takes our attention from ourselves. But it is often fleeting or crumbles easily.

The love of parent for a child comes closer to Divine love. It gives us a glimpse of the way our Creator loves us, His children. Can you see your Creator loving you as much as you love your children? If God can love you, imperfections and all, shouldn't you be able to love yourself too?
Knowing the love of God is the path to unconditional love of self. If you experience that, the command to love your neighbor as yourself becomes possible. It's never a given and sometimes we only experience it in moments of Grace. Agape is its name and spiritual peace is its companion. In a perfect world we would all understand it and live it. But that's doesn't seem to be His plan.

Posted by Jimmy J. at November 18, 2011 7:39 PM

I've never dared to comment on your blog before, but I've been reading you for years. Thanks for the beautiful writing and sharing of your life's journey, in part. Have you ever read The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis? Seems you'd find some common ground there. May you be blessed with years more of good health and worthwhile journeying.

Posted by LauraS at November 19, 2011 3:14 AM

Love is a "little" death. So is being in the thrall of great beauty, truth, wisdom, for in those moments of great felicity we take a leap out of ourselves into the unknown, willingly, of our own accord. These are really acts of true discovery of existential Mystery, a mystery not to be understood but lived.

Posted by John Hinds at November 19, 2011 6:29 AM

Thank you for the note , Laura. I've put the Lewis book in my Amazon stack.

Posted by vanderleun at November 19, 2011 7:34 AM

You've made my Saturday feel like Sunday, and I'll count that among my blessings.

Posted by Andy at November 19, 2011 9:37 AM

Well, Gerard, not make light of the subject, but to quote a woman of vast experience with the matter at hand: "You speak of love, but you have no pesos.". /

Seek, and ye shall find, good sir.

Posted by twolaneflash at November 19, 2011 9:59 AM

Well sometimes the two can intertwine. My husband of 37 years came down with pneumonia in 2008. He was dead in two weeks. During my time in the ICU waiting room, I became friends with a man, whose wife of 21 years was sick with lung cancer. She died the day before my husband. We stayed friends and discussed all those terrible things that no one else would understand. Then we became lovers, what I thought of as a war time romance. We are still together. Death is such a hard thing, a place where time is stopped and never restarts. But Life continues to run on and you are pulled away from that moment in time. You can try to live in that fatal moment but you will never really be successful at it. Life demands change.

Posted by Teri Pittman at November 21, 2011 7:00 PM

I'm not sure when the change came over me, but my relationship with death is different now. Sometime between last March and September I realized that when I contemplated my mortality I wasn't worried about it any more. My Grandfather died at about sixty-five, his wife at ninety-two. My father at seventy-four. Where in that range would I fall, and fall, I used to wonder.

Then last March after a three day illness, my wife died suddenly, at fifty-eight. I was fairly sure I loved her, but I found I didn't know how much I loved her until she was dead. I'd had a close call with her nineteen years earlier when she had her stroke. If I hadn't been home working that day she might have left me then. We had problems in our marriage before that, we never had any more troubles of that sort afterwards.
She became a different person after that, better, more involved with others. She filled her life with what they used to call, "Good Works". My only job was the mundane, go to work, do the shopping, do most of the cooking. She had many friends before the stroke, she had a lot more afterwards. I've only ever had a few.

I don't worry about how long I'm going to live any more. I really don't care. Laid off last year, I take joy in being on the water, my photography and cooking for friends. I have enough for my needs and to do what I want. When I die I've given instructions for my body to be cremated and my remains to be mixed with hers. Then we will be together.

Posted by John the River at November 22, 2011 4:44 PM

Love is the eternal yes.

Posted by ahem at February 14, 2014 8:49 AM

My parents, my wife's parents all passed away in our presence after long illnesses that took all we could muster to handle the sadness and roller coaster ride of a dying loved one. At 70 having already faced a grim looking doctor acroos his office desk and open chest surgery to remove part of a lung I can say this one thing for sure: The deaths of loved ones and family is sad and often seems unbearable but there is nothing in the world that gets your attention quite like having your doctor tell you that you have lung cancer.

Posted by GoneWithTheWind at February 14, 2014 6:02 PM

Gerard, what happened to the Bosch?

Posted by chasmatic at February 15, 2014 5:28 AM

Oops, sorry, didn't scroll enough. Well while I'm here and to cover my embarrassment I will comment.

I had a dance with death recently. Not my first one but definitely my most memorable. At first, when I was closest to crossing over I had dreams, nightmares, dark visions, I can't convey the feelings that attended. Death was a presence, vivid enough to have smells — horrible, a bit frightening and amplified by a sense of Evil. I struggled to stay on the narrow path of salvation and eventually broke through. Calling on God works for me. A significant step up was one day while wallowing in the darkness and having no positive thoughts beyond "hang on, it'll be OK". My wife came into the room and brought with her The Light. I realized I had turned the corner and indeed it would be OK.

My illness (kidney failure and Multiple Myeloma) and subsequent recovery have caused in me a paradigm shift. Small and insignificant things (I'm surprised there are so many) no longer matter. Other things, such as my love for my wife, a fondness for living and a humble tolerance for others cause me much joy.

I know you have shifted too Gerard. Those of us that have crossed that line cannot adequately convey the feelings but we resonate with each other. As for the others, life will unfold for them as well and one day they will have that added dimension.

Stray quote, from No Country For Old Men IIRC:

"You may not know this, but there are things that gnaw at a man worse than dyin'."

The fear of death was that for me. No longer.

Thanks for the article.

Posted by chasmatic at February 15, 2014 5:51 AM

Laura Ledford at http://www.fetchmyflyingmonkeys.com/
Is a delight, but her post on a near-death experience is both funny and incredibly heartening. I read it when mortality threatens.


April 27, 2011
-------- CLEAR! -------^----^----^--
I had my yearly cardiology appointment the other day. I see a cardiologist because, as I said before, I technically "died" during, and after, a non-cardiac surgery and they had to jump-start my heart a few times. I love telling people I died before, but I don't like giving details. Most people will say "What did you see?" and I'll say "Death." And they'll be all "Did you see a light? Did you see people?" and I'll say something like "I saw your grandma and she said to tell you that you're a bitter disappointment." They generally stop asking after that.
The reason I don't talk about it much can probably be traced back to when I was in high school. There was a guy I went to school with who was in a horrific car accident our sophomore year. Word had it he died a few times in the ambulance and was brought back with the defibrillator. He was out of school for months and didn't come back until the following year. Before the accident he was a pretty popular dude. He played football and all the girls wanted to date him. After the accident he walked around with a Bible and tried to convert everyone who came within 15 feet of him. He said Jesus had told him to. And that was cool. Whatever. But he was ANNOYING AS FUCK FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS.
Anyway, what I experienced was way beyond anything I can do justice describing. If you can imagine what pure joy is, magnify that times a zillion and then multiply it a zillion more times. It was like that. And all the anger, and pettiness, and jealousy, and all the bad stuff that worries us JUST DOESN'T MATTER. Not one iota. I don't know if it was just neurons firing off in my brain causing hallucinations or if it was "the afterlife/Heaven" and I won't debate it either. But I knew the answer then, because with the pure joy came complete knowledge. I lost both within mere minutes after I woke in ICU with the code blue team and a priest surrounding me. And even though I closed my eyes tight and tried to hold on to that knowledge, it vaporized. Except for one thing, Jesus told me to tell y'all to stop masturbating so much.
 
P.S. Okay. Jesus didn't really tell me to tell y'all to stop masturbating so much. What he told me was that he liked me best.
P.P.S. This doesn't mean y'all should start diddling all over the place now. For crap's sake, have some decorum.
P.P.P.S. Okay. Okay. Jesus didn't say he liked me best. He said I was second, behind Gandhi.
P.P.P.P.S. Alright. Alright. I didn't see Jesus. I saw my crazy-ass Papaw and his coon dog named Gandhi. And he did like Gandhi better than me. And he didn't mention anything about y'all masturbating because that would have been creepy as hell.
Posted by Laura at 04:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (43)

Posted by Old Surfer at February 15, 2014 6:37 PM

Death is frightening because we haven't experienced it. Love is frightening because we have.
When I say, I don't know love, it is because I have not experienced someone's constant love for me. I do feel love for a few others and it has not disappeared with time. Love is defined as others have said in 1st Corinthians 13:
As we change, friendships and loves change, but we hang on to the concept of a life mate. Maybe many are like Betrand Russell when he stated that he suddenly realized he didn't love his first wife anymore. She did not change, but he had.

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