I would never claim to know more about love than most people. All humans — and maybe non-human animals too — probably come equipped with a fairly intuitive understanding of it. But as a widow, having seen the one I then loved most in the world die, my view of what love is and what it does and what it means is perhaps unusually clear. And since I’m now remarried, I can test myself every day on how practical what I see is.
I’ve written a lot about love over the years, and I think there’s something to it:
A widow can see some things about love that others may not easily see.
We see that life is short.
“when you face the reality of death, you simultaneously confront the certainty of mortality, the enormity of all life, the insignificance of our lifespan in the overall continuum of time, and the myopia of our usual moment-by-moment perspective. Suddenly, the horizon looks wider, there is more depth to all experience, and everything — everything — seems both more trivial and more urgent.”
Culture encodes that message to the point of cliché, too, but it’s usually to sell you something you don’t need: a fancy car, a big vacation, dessert before dinner. When a widow tells you life is short, there’s no agenda. It’s just our lived truth that we’ve chosen to share with you. A gift, if you’ll have it.
We see that people survive.
As much as we have seen that people die (and oh, we have seen that people die), we have also seen that people survive. Because we ourselves have survived.
We see that love survives.
No matter what happens to people, love itself can long outlast us.
“Love doesn’t die with death. Love is like liquid; when it pours out, it seeps into others’ lives. Love changes form and shape. Love gets into everything. Death doesn’t conquer all; love does. Love wins every single time. Love wins by lasting through death. Love wins by loving more, loving again, loving without fear.”
We see that love reinvents itself.
“When a relationship lasts and works, it’s not only because you fell in love however many years ago; it’s because you give each other enough room to be yourselves, and because each of you adapts and learns to love each other for the people you grow into, day after day, time and time again.”
Love that lasts over years will sometimes challenge us. As the pressures of life take up our attention, love may make us play hide-and-seek, making us wonder if it’s even still there. And when we find it, if we find it, we may find it changed. But that means we can enjoy the fun part again, the rediscovery of each other.
We see that love, like loss, keeps its own clock.
Love doesn’t check your plans and coordinate your calendar. You intended to move across the country to pursue your dream? That’s probably when you’ll fall in love in your hometown. You thought you’d spend the rest of your life together? Not when loss takes over.
Love can make you bold and it can make you humble. So can loss. And just as loss can empty you out, love can fuel your innermost fire. In the newness of love and the aftermath of loss, time changes.
“But the calendar repeats and repeats, and the timeline of my many previous stories and significant dates will continue to weave through the timeline of my ongoing stories and dates.”
Love can help you rewrite your dreams and reinvent your future. Even after loss. And it happens whenever it happens, no matter what anyone else has to say about it.
Most of all, we see that love is even worth losing.
What a widow sees most of all is that love is worth it, every time. The fear of loss scares some people away from taking the risk that love will hurt them. It shouldn’t. You know your own limits better than I do, but I will tell you what I know: Love changes you, and even if you don’t think you’re better for it, you probably are.
“And love, love, love all you can while you can. Life is short and sometimes hard, but love is like renewable energy.”
You can be cynical about a lot of things — capitalism, politics, the overhyped commercialism of Valentine’s Day—but please don’t be cynical about love. Even if you feel it hasn’t found you in the form of the romantic ideal, love can still change you. Love those who matter to you with all you’ve got, and love will transform you.
It’s a gift, if you’ll have it.