Love is Eternal

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.

The words echoed over me, through my mind, numbing my senses.

Love.

Love for what?

I hadn’t known her. I’d only ever talked to her in short sentences, at family gatherings, asking how she was, saying how I was.

Pain.

We sat in three rows, curled around the front podium, listening. A small group.
In the front row, the closest family members to her sat, sharing in their mourning.

Now another was speaking.

“A dark cloud had descended for a long, long time. Only those close to her could see that cloud…”

The words faded again, but the one term pressed itself in my mind.I would never be able to forget it.

“Others saw her cheerful side. She showed it to them, and tried to make things better. To take care of her family. She lived for the time she had with them.”

But she died.

I didn’t even know who was speaking now. I didn’t look up, instead keeping my gaze fixed on the pattern of the chair in front of me.

“Can you sit down?” My father had asked.

“What’s wrong?” I said, panicking a little.

On the way home from school, my mother had sent me a message through my phone. She had sounded… strained… as if angry or worried, and I didn’t know what.
At me? Did I do something?

“Nothing’s wrong,” my father reassured me.

I didn’t believe him.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Your great aunt is in the hospital.” He said, breaking the news.

I let a breath out, relieved. No one was dead.

“What happened?” I repeated, more energy in my voice now.

That was when I saw my mother’s pale face.

“She,” my father fumbled for words.
I didn’t speak, but the question rang out in my mind.

What happened?

“Listen… we need to talk to you about this… she was found by her friend… she hadn’t been seen all day, and the friend got really scared. When… the friend went to the house, she found her.”

Scared of what? She was found… found… what does he mean?
I sat, not saying anything, waiting to know the full story.

“She… something happened... a chemical… no one is sure how it happened.”

What is he saying?

“A chemical was released… in the garage… it was such a small space, and she was in there.”

I could imagine their garage, too, had been in it countless times.

“What did it do?” I heard my own voice ask.

“It nearly killed her.”

I was incredulous, confusion seeping into my voice, “Didn’t she try to get out?”

I realized just as he spoke it.

“No. We think she was trying to kill herself.”

Kill herself. She hadn’t died then, though. She had died half a week later in the hospital. She was never going to wake up again, so they pulled the cords that had been keeping her alive. But it didn’t matter. She had been gone before the neighbor—the friend—had ever stumbled into that garage and found her.

The words jerked me back to the present.

Someone was speaking, “Now, we are going to have a time to remember her, in silence and peace, and to send her with our best wishes.”

Looking around, all family feuds were forgotten, and we all sat here, remembering, and knowing that all other things must be forgotten for this time.

For her.

A clicking of heels behind me, the soft sound of nails against plastic, the button pressed down.
A soft music filled the room—classical—the music that told of sorrow.

I sat for a minute in silence, and everything washed back over me.
Flying up that very night, arriving at their house, the crying. Those beautiful designs on the wall, that she had created by hand. Memories. Memories of a life that had been but was no more.
The beautiful, elaborate brush strokes forming the words against the wall in a gorgeous script.

Life’s not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.

Silently, I wondered, Had she believed that? If she had believed that the storm was worth getting rid of, would she be here today?

I looked up, looked around at all the other mourners.

Her daughter sat in the front row, staring blindly ahead at the two arrangements of flowers that had been set out, tears filling her eyes. Next to her, my great uncle was looking down at the ground, his hands clasped together in his lap.

Suddenly her daughter looked up.

She whispered, “Stop.”

No one but me heard her.
“Stop!” She said again, more forcefully, and this time everyone heard.

The heels clicked again, and the music stopped abruptly.

Later, outside in the rain, we stood in the mud, watching the container with her remains being lowered into the ground. With the water trickling down our cheeks, now no one could tell who was crying and who was not.

Numb, numb feelings… no way to feel any emotion.

I didn’t know her, and yet now she was dead. Should I feel something?
I didn’t know what to think.

The words at the beginning of the funeral flooded back into my mind on the plane flight back. The side of my face was pressed against the window, and I breathed in and out, slowly.

How slowly had she breathed?

“No one can understand the reasons for suicide,” my father had said.
How true it was. How could any of us ever understand?

“Love is patient, love is kind.”

But love always dies. It is not eternal, is it? She loved her family, they loved her. That didn’t stop her ending her own life.

I remembered the words on the wall, the words in the service.
“A dark cloud had descended for a long, long time.”

Life’s not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Had those words been repeated on purpose, or a mere accident?

Her gentle hands had painted those words onto the wall, the colors contrasting beautifully, black ink against a parchment color.

Swirling letters against a blank backdrop.

Had she known beforehand, or had she done it in the moment? Had lightning come down from the cloud, striking her down?

Or… had the storm cleared for a moment, giving her one chance to escape… and had she taken that chance?

They’d mentioned religion at the funeral, her devotion.

Had God forgiven her? Could He?
Could any of us?

Her own daughter hadn’t. The last we had seen her, her expression had been set. Set against the pain.
“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.”

When did anyone ever say that love did not hurt? Love might be all those other things, but love could hurt…

And now it was hurting. Hurting with the pain of loneliness. It would take time to heal, a long time maybe.

But it was still there.

Outside the plane, we were passing through a layer of clouds, moving up, up into the sky. Absolute whiteness covered exterior vision for a moment, but then we broke above the clouds. The golden sun, a thousand colors bleeding through the eternal whiteness. Beauty. Golden rays of sunshine illuminating the heavens. The colors dancing throughout the sky, flooding the plane as they came through the windows.

I didn’t know her. I have no right to miss her compared to them. I cannot miss her the way someone who knew her might miss her… but I can at least understand the pain of what is in their minds.
I closed my eyes, letting my head fall back against the headrest.
Where is she now?

Somehow the answer didn’t matter. We were not with her any more, but we still had her memory. We could still love and cherish her.
The words on the wall appeared again in my mind, delicate tracings, so carefully done.
Had she done them while the children were still in the house, or once they had grown and gone away? As a project alone, or with a friend?

So many questions, all to go unanswered.

Life’s not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.

Was that her version of dancing in the rain?

I didn’t know.

But the sun comes through the clouds, doesn’t it? The dark clouds clear, and a clearer and more beautiful sky replaces it?

Not all the time…

A little voice whispered in my head.

But why let the storm remain? Why not just step out from under the cloud, letting the shadow fall away as easily as a layer of grime being washed off?

“No one can understand a person’s reasons for suicide.”

My father’s words rang through my head again. They were true… there was no way to truly understand, and we would waste our time trying to understand.

But we can love. The love is still there.

The last four words echoed in my head for a moment before they disappeared.

“Always hopes, always perseveres.”

Love hurts. It may be kind, but it does not seem so now. It may be patient, but why did we not have more time. It doesn’t envy, but what in this case is there to envy? It is not proud, but how could we be proud of the misery we were in? It would not boast, not of a single thing. That at least applies. A kind woman. A loving mother. She would not boast. One of those few unsung heroes who lives their life in the background.
But she didn’t. She chose to step out from behind the backdrop, into the open.

But couldn’t she have done it without killing herself?

Rude, self-seeking, the anger, the wrongs… none of those were important. Love rejoices in truth… was it truthful, her putting on a cheerful face to others, or was it out of protection?

But no, those last two definitions, those last four words.
“always hopes, always perseveres.”
Love had done that. Love had persevered—it was still there. And we still had hope.

The plane rattled down on the tracks, roaring as it came to a halt.

Hope… so beautiful, and yet always accompanied by such misery in its true form.

Would it be right to give up hope, then?

I remembered her daughter’s expression, as she had turned around, insisting that the music be turned off, that the time for reflection was ended.

She didn’t need everyone to see her remember her mother. She needed time to love her mother.
“always hopes, always perseveres.”
She just needs time to love… to persevere… to hope.

The plane’s wheels hit the ground with a dull finality, and we were back home. Back to face reality, back to face our normal lives. Nothing in our immediate future had changed, but something had. At family gatherings, she would never be there. She was gone.
Forever.

But we could still love her.





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faeriesdescending44 said...
Sept. 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm
wow... ive never lost anyone in my family, but this just made my heart break. its kind of enlightening, and i love that bible verse, its my favorite. you did a great job writing this, i loved it!
 
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