Love Anyway

I’ve never been particularly good with suffering. Avoidance? Insecurity? Hyper-control? Sure. Then my all-star qualities shine bright. But being insecure, hyper-controlling, and trying to avoid pain doesn’t a happy life make.

When I was twenty-one, I had the chance to meet my father after long years of separation at—of all places—the Art Institute of Chicago. I was meeting his second wife for the first time. And to make matters even more relaxed, I didn’t know a thing about modern art. But I did discover a latent sense of humor, which apparently shot to the surface like a geyser when under serious pressure.

I amused my dad, his wife, and even myself. Seeing absurdities in the uncomfortable world before me kept my eyes averted from haunting ghosts and garrulous gremlins. Our conversation never veered toward my mom, my brothers or sisters, loss of childhood, alcoholism, substance abuse, or neglect. The conversation stayed right where it needed to be, focused on pictures hanging on walls, which none of us understood.

Contrary to every psychological theory I knew at the time, communication was not the key to our relationship. After that initial reunion, I visited my dad regularly. He attended my wedding, got to know my growing family, and became a steady fixture in my life. Even at the age of ninety, we still connect at least once a week. He may not remember my name some days, but he always remembers that he loves me. And that I love him.

Over the years, we did have a couple of hard conversations about our family and the things that went so very wrong in our lives, but they were not all that productive. His simple admission, “I’m sorry,” was all I ever really needed to hear. And my, “I love you anyway,” was all he really needed to know.

In recent years, I have lost a husband, a brother, several friends, (I have a visitation to attend this weekend), my sense of worth, and even my heart, but in experiencing these losses, I have discovered that there is no fixing pain. There is only, “I’m sorry.” And “I love you anyway.”

Being truly sorry when someone is suffering shares the burden. It is one of the greatest acts of generosity that a human being can undertake.

Loving anyway explodes the walls of control, doubt, fear, hurt, avoidance, and insecurity. Love is not doormat material. Love demands decency, honesty, integrity, and heroism. But it doesn’t demand those qualities all at once in perfect order.

After a particularly brutal loss recently, my imagination conjured up the image of a wounded woman rising after tumbling down a hill. Not unlike Sam at the base of Mount Doom. How’s that for an “I’m sorry, and I love you anyway” scenario? But Sam rose again. Even when it was hopeless to do so. Even when pain had the upper hand. Even at the end of Middle-earth, he rose and loved anyway. And he wasn’t alone.

Pain and loss are twin hells that human beings experience in umpteen versions throughout the course of our journey toward heaven. We can’t fix reality, stop the hurt, make everything right, control outcomes, or even avoid tumbling down hills. Personally, I can crack a joke and laugh at absurdities to keep the ghosts and gremlins at bay, and that helps. Some.

But mostly, I can be sorry and love anyway.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

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Acceptance

Yesterday I took two of my kids to the oral surgeon to get their wisdom teeth removed. The trip down was okay, the trip back, very quiet.  As I drove through the last of a rainstorm which had moved through that morning, adjusting for all the construction barriers and trying to hold back useless questions, like: “Are you feeling all right?” I pondered the question of suffering—once again.

I remember the surprising answer my priest offered me after a miscarriage. Instead of telling me what to do to alleviate my suffering or how to get around the pain, his first recommendation was to “accept what you cannot change.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear.  In time, I learned the wisdom of his words.

We suffer for a lot of reasons, sometimes at the hands of others, sometimes through our own fault and sometimes, like wisdom teeth, for no apparent reason at all.  Simply recognizing the pain we are in is the first step to dealing with it effectively.

In my kids’ case, they knew that oral surgery would hurt, but they also knew that impacted wisdom teeth would cause worse suffering later if they didn’t deal with it now. I knew that taking my kids to an oral surgeon would involve pain, but it was a price I was willing to pay to save them more grief later. There are a lot of times when we are forced to realize that suffering is inevitable and asking why or being angry is useless, actually hindering the healing process. The human body is packed full of opportunities to suffer. But that fact need not leave us hopeless. When we accept that suffering exists, that it in itself it is not evil, then we can learn the value of acceptance.

A friend, a mother of two teens and diagnosed with cancer, told me after she had been informed that she had only weeks to live, that “It is what it is.”  In most people, I would have thought this reaction one of despair or mere resignation, but after walking the road of faith through all the stages of death with Carla, I realized how complete she had become. She accepted the presence of death. She did everything she could to say her grateful goodbyes and to leave in the most loving manner possible, and she died at peace.

When my kids suffered from swollen, aching jaws, I handed them their medication, gave them the directions, and reminded them to be careful. (I also handed them containers of ice cream and strawberry yogurt.)  My teens have a choice—deal with what is honestly, realizing that pain will be a part of their healing, or make things worse by trying to avoid it.

This morning as I said my prayers, I remembered the cross of Christ, and though I knew I would have to face this day’s allotment of suffering, I also knew through the love that Christ bears us, that suffering need not be wasted.  It is also an opportunity to love and be loved—if we accept it.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00