I have a confession. I couldn’t make it through the end of “The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana.” It’s true. The guilt I feel in not finishing a book is horrible. I tell my students that it’s ok if they need to abandon a book every once in a while, but I have a hard time following my own advice. Four of the five other people in my book club have abandoned it as well, which is ample justification. They are much smarter than me. But still. The past week has probably been the worst reading week I’ve had in quite a long time. I am 100 pages behind for our new book club choice, The Inheritance of Loss. Blah.
So my writing today is based on the things that have been going on in my head, not necessarily based on my reading of text, but more of my reading of the world. I promise to follow up with thoughts about the good that came out of “Mysterious Flame” because I do want to still think Umberto Eco a genius. But not right now.
Last Sunday I was distraught because of the apparent lack of love and caring that I saw in books and movies that seemed to realistically portray the heartaches and misunderstandings of life that leave us feeling incredibly alone in a big world. However, I spent that evening and the following two days with my family at the funeral of my mother’s aunt, and I saw a completely different heartache…one that I have tasted in the past that I cynically forgot about while watching and reading “The Last Kiss” and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. Haunting my thoughts all week has been the aching that comes from loving much.
I’m struggling with words right now, trying to decide how to portray the deep ache that I witnessed in my family last weekend, trying to give their feelings the poetry that is due to their depth. I cannot. But the one thing that I can write about is that there is a difference between the brokenness that comes from a selfish pursuit of happiness which plagued me the week before and the brokenness that comes from the loss of love that was strong enough to shape who we have become and who we want to be.
Both sides of the brokenness show us pieces of truth. Coming from selfish decisions, we become convinced that there is something utterly wrong in the world. Things are not as they should be and our compass for what is good and true and noble becomes completely skewed. But the brokenness that stems from the loss of loving much…that shows us what is right in the world and how things are supposed to be. Here we are left knowing, though, that deep, real love does exist and does change us. And at the end of the day, it’s what we’ve been craving all along.
Last Monday I was sitting at my aunt and uncle’s house with my cousins, parents, brother and grandmother where old stories and laughter were the order of the moment. In the midst of the people who I adore most in the world, I felt a part of something so much bigger than myself—my grandmother who described meeting my grandfather to me in song, eating french fries from the drive in where they still know my dad’s name from working there 30 years ago, stories that make us cry in our laughing. A slight fear of losing any of the people in the room caught my heart for a moment. But it came out of an overflowing cup—the kind of love that has tightly been woven around my life since before I was even born. A moment where everything seemed right.
I want to live out of that cup. I want to be motivated to love by the purity of that moment, and even the sorrow of watching my aunts and mother and the funeral Tuesday morning, knowing that they were loved by a woman who thought them special.
“Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55