Love is an Act of Courage … can life go on without those we love?
This is a true story I have encouraged people with many times and is the continuing theme to “Love is Stronger than Death” which is why I initially started writing (see story On Grief & Timeless Love).
I was yet again reminded of the importance of personally retelling the story when I met a girl who told me part of her life story believe it or not while I was getting my yearly blood tests. I’m sitting up in a big chair, arm extended, tensing up waiting for the needle to go in – feeling like a chicken about to be slaughtered!! We start talking and I hear her “signal” as I am listening. There is something she wants to tell me but it’s hidden underneath the words she is speaking. She lost her husband, he passed on a few years ago, she misses him every day, people in her world don’t understand why she is still “sad”. She feels his silence at home, misses the comfort of him next to her at night when she goes to sleep. What can she do, she asks me? I look inside for strength, tell myself “DON’T mess this up!” take a breath and, then, look into her eyes: Her heart is open in simple yet guarded trust, she’s hoping for a miracle answer and within the beauty of her eyes is a pain and sadness in her heart.
So I tell her how I met someone by accident and, yet, it seems destined. The company I was working for on the Gold Coast had an office in Sydney and I was invited to go to the Christmas Party, stay overnight, an all expenses paid trip – a very kind reward from the person, Chris, I worked with. I’m not a great fan of work parties after some unpleasant experiences and I don’t like spending a night away from Graham, my husband, as we are a team and look out for each other. I decided to go simply having a gut feeling it was something I should do. The people I worked and travelled with were first class people, I have travelled with work commitments quite a lot when I was younger and over the years and travel is great but, truthfully, it was hard to see it as an adventure or fun without Graham.
So I went, with a smile plastered on my face and consoled myself with the idea I might find some new earrings to buy while in Sydney to make the trip worthwhile.
The Christmas Party was at Manly Beach in Sydney – a brilliant location in a first class restaurant actually right on the beach, a wonderful crowd of business people there, smart, funny, lots of laughs and really good company.
I’m having a great time which was a positive surprise but underneath my smile was a person who was missing her man. I know, I know – it’s only an overnight trip – pathetic really!! I need a break from all this smiling and I’m drawn to the amazing view looking out over the water. I go over, lean on the balcony railing and watch the people walking on the beach and swimming having fun with their kids and friends. I’m thinking to myself I wish I could kick off my shoes, throw on my bathers, jump over the balcony and run into the water to get away from the noise. While I’m standing there, I feel someone nearby sharing the view. She has dark sunglasses on and her eyes are hidden but I can feel her presence. We had met earlier back at Head Office and talked briefly on the rushed ride in the minibus to the restaurant. We’re both having a “time out” looking at the fun on the beach. Drawn together, we start a conversation, get to know each other. She is a confident person, talks about her family in Vietnam, asks me about mine – do I have sisters – a brother? I ask about her family. She starts talking about them and yes, she had a brother but he is gone, he died. In the moments of silence I hear her heart crying. So I ask, quietly, carefully: When did he go? 20 years ago. How did it happen? She hesitatingly reveals and lays open to me her very personal story of the loss of her brother and the incredible sadness she feels which she can’t seem to move on from. People around her don’t understand so she doesn’t tell them, doesn’t talk about it but I can feel this incredible weight she is carrying. She says she can’t ask her brother’s advice, can’t talk to him, still misses him. I tell her I understand her feeling of loss as I went through this myself some 13 years after my Dad had passed away. I couldn’t tell him the things I needed to – mostly that I loved him and I realised he loved me – the important explanations I would never get to say to him right now which is very difficult to deal with. I explained that one night reading again the words in a favourite book and a line from the Storyteller’s Creed by Robert Fulghum: “I believe Love is Stronger than death” how these words spoke to me in the quiet that night and helped me realise I haven’t lost my Dad or his love and it is eternal.
As I quietly talk to this girl even with a wall of noise and chatter behind us standing there on this particular December day with a clear blue sky overhead and a sunny Manly Beach day before us, the tears start to roll down from underneath her sunglasses and it is almost tangible between us that the burden of suffering over the last 20 years of her life is starting to move and she’s crying tears from heaven – a rainbow of beauty replacing the ashes – and the floodgate is starting to open in her heart. Does that sound silly to you? In this quiet space of time between us we connected heart to heart and the gift of love and light we share with each other surpasses all the mess which life can bring. Hope truly springs eternal. It transports us from where we are and lifts us into our future.
I have a photo of my Dad and me from when I was a kid standing in front of him in a Botanical Park – they call it visitation rights now. All I know is I went to the State Library in Adelaide and my Dad would be there – a changeover – and we would go to the parks and on the Paddle Boat by the river in Adelaide City and spend time together. It was confusing to me what we were doing. I would see him for a couple of hours and then I wouldn’t see him for a couple of weeks. Whose fault? No-one – it’s just the way it was. I have a keepsake personal photo of my Dad and of me – a memento handed out at his funeral back when I was 22 with a covering note from his friend – a Pastor – advising how these words my Dad often read which spoke personally to him and then:
“by which he (my Dad) gave much encouragement to so many people:-
‘Every trouble has vast built-in opportunities …
Imagination can turn your bed of trouble into fruitful pastures.
Your time of lying low can become your morning of spiritual refreshment.
Wait patiently for the Lord. He will not mock your waiting.
God will not laugh at your praying.
Suddenly, you will feel the mighty hand of God underneath you and all around you as he lifts you and guides you into your future.’
‘If I ride the morning winds to the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me.’
Cyril Warwick” (my Dad)
We shared a couple of emails, my new found Sydney friend and I did buy some really pretty earrings in downtown Sydney at a great price but on the flight home my thoughts were of how the trip had been worth making so I could stand on that balcony and share and encourage and, hopefully, help someone have hope in her future and also put behind any regrets from the past. The heavy burden she carried mostly in silence for those 20 years was gradually lifting and she could know true peace.
Now I hop off my chair – I’ve had my blood test – yuk! I stand together with this wonderful woman who tells me she is from Cambodia with her family still over there and I’ve shared the true story of the girl I met in Sydney from Vietnam and, importantly that: Love is Stronger than death. I tell her she hasn’t lost her man – he’s just away from the phone and she can’t talk to him – like he’s on holidays on an island and there’s no phone but the love and laughter they share is still there and it is timeless for both of you. I am thankful for the opportunity to share with her and we hug and, as I go on my way back into the busyness of my day, we agree it was a miracle no-one interrupted these moments of gold we shared – of one heart together.
My parting words were to remind her of how unique and valuable she is: You are here for a purpose, you need to find out what that is and pursue it.