Did you see what I did there? I honestly cannot have been the first or only person to do that today on this fun-filled Valentine’s Day/Ash Wednesday combo.
All day long I’ve seen things like this:
Roses are red,
violets are blue,
I’m going to die
And so are you.
“Hey girl, I love you. Let’s talk about our mortality.”
Love and death on the same day. And, I have two people in my life who celebrate the day of their birth on this day. Love, death, birth, life…is there anything that represents the human experience more than those four words?
There is something uniquely appropriate about celebrating Love on the same day as we are invited to remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return because love and death are utterly and inexorably linked. None of us have ever loved without the prospect of death—either our own or this person that we have loved. We all know that we are loving with the great risk that that we will experience a small death—this person will break up with me and there will be the death of this relationship—or the capital “D” Death when that person is no longer here on earth, breathing the same air… their voice can no longer be heard, their touch no longer felt.
When we are reminded of death the love around us awakens us to love more, to love better, to use the witness of death as a reminder of LIFE. Often times when there is a tragedy that shakes us to our collective core, as there was today in Parkland, Florida, we say things like, “I’m going to hug my kids a little tighter tonight.” On 911 when it was clear the plane was going to crash in a field in Pennsylvania, people weren’t calling to check in at home or make one last deal at work, they were calling the people nearest and dearest to them to say those three words that are ubiquitously plastered all over today on cards, balloons, little candy hearts…I LOVE YOU. In the face of death, love was all that mattered.
For me, grief is simply death colored by love—the aura that is created as you cry, scream, lament, question, wonder, and eventually start to put one foot in front of the other and move through life without that person. It is why grief looks so different for so many. There is nothing more common than death—it is our collective constant. But it is also individually so unique because of our other collective constant: Love. So, whatever loved looked like in that relationship, the loss will cast its unique hue. Parent/child, brother/sister, husband/wife/, love gone wrong—harsh words, spoken, a rift that was never healed, or love gone so right—a best friend, soulmate, beloved. And for most of us, somewhere in between…even on the same day…just like this one.
Part of being human is acknowledging that death is right there. It will happen to those we love, it will happen to those who are loved, it will happen to us. That is the Ash Wednesday invitation. But the Valentine’s Day invitation is to remind ourselves of who those people are that we love and to make sure they know that through a bouquet of flowers, a heart-shaped pancake (I really do think my kids feel more loved because I did that this morning) or through those three little words. It is to be reminded of how loved we are. And, the invitation of every day is to be reminded that while death and love co-exist—sometimes in the very same breath—love wins.
XO and + (the best cross I could find on my keyboard)