This morning at the hospital, I sat beside the man who has been my father-in-law for the better part of thirty-one years. We don’t have a snuggly relationship, but rather a mutually respectful one forged by our shared name. We politely listen to one another’s political and religious views and tease one another about our quirky differences. We live three states and 600 miles apart.
I had not expected my Christmas break to include an additional 150-mile journey to a small internet deprived town and a trip to the emergency room, but surprises seem to be a part of the holidays.
The time for good-bye was drawing close. He was fragile and vulnerable with only a warm blanket and random tubes running in and out of his body. I began to review our relationship. It was just the two of us, his eyelids closing between our spoken words. As I reached to hold his cold hand, I felt an incredibly large lump growing in my throat and tears stinging the edges of my eyes.
Does crisis release some random gene that loosens the tongue?
How does one sum up and say things that are assumed?
Does he even want to hear?
Rising at an alarming rate that I could not ignore or deny…words were forming on my tongue. This world-weary, 85 year-old man’s use of words is masterful for crossword puzzles or an argumentative stance, but words of tender feeling or emotion are a foreign language.
As I spoke of the name that we share and how he has “left his mark” on my world, I realized that between us something is there. It is not something required or even planned; rather it has “grown-up,” with us, today we noticed it together and chose to give it a name…love.
Forged love surprises us by the intensity with which it clings to us when we don’t even recognize it is there. It creates space and carves into us the ability to hold things that seem unlikely and not “love like.” If we reduce love to a mere feeling, we miss the opportunity of even pain to reveal something deeper that we cannot see. “For God so loved the world…”isn’t about a sentiment but rather a covenant that is being forged as it is proclaimed. Was it the covenant that revealed the depth of love? Or true love that created the space for covenant to be held?
Suddenly my words to my father-in-law became ours and our hands clung to one another – neither wanting to be the first to let go. Through tears I kissed his forehead and gently wiped the accumulated moisture from his eyes…we knew it was time for me to leave. “Go on get out of here!” his hoarse, but strong good-bye proclaimed. Yet I carried these words from their mysteriously revealed covenant between us…love.