I wrote this piece quite a few years ago when I lived in Southern California, when my son, Luke, was a small boy. Now he’s the second tallest in our family. I think I have two years left – maybe – before he takes my top spot! Anyway, here are some reflections on love and death. A book could be written on the connection between love and death, of course, but here’s a start.
Sentimental? Well, okay . . . perhaps. So for those of you with tender hearts, enjoy.
LOVE AND DEATH
My son smiles at me from the photograph pinned to my computer screen. He has an impish grin on his face. Mischief is on his mind. It’s a look that tells me he anticipates with relish all that life has to offer. He is five years old. He has his whole life ahead of him.
I love my son . . . so much it hurts. I cherish him. He is dear to me beyond description. Such emotion has the power to overwhelm, engulf and finally suck the life out of me. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the tenderness I feel sometimes affects my ability to breathe. It’s as though love is starting to kill me.
Love and death. Irrevocably linked. “I would die for you.” “I love her to death.” If we’re human, we have either heard or said something similar. John Keats, the romantic poet wrote,
I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for their religion –
I have shudder’d at it.
I shudder no more.
I could be martyr’d for my religion
Love is my religion
And I could die for that.
I could die for you.
And we connect with the sentiment. After all, it is axiomatic in Scripture that true love leads to death. It is called the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My son sits on my lap and struggles with his reading lesson. He’s twisting and turning and complaining that he’s tired. I’m also tired. It’s been a long day, and it’s a little late to be working out words like “little” and “getting.” Especially when you’re only just five. But we’re here and we’re committed. Except that we’ve been on Lesson 57 for quite a while now.
We sit down for dinner. All five of us. Within minutes, my son has crawled onto my lap. He’s too big to be doing this, but he hasn’t seen his father all day, and he wants me to hug him. I push him off a few times, run out of patience, and then hug him. Satisfied, he returns to his food. Two minutes later, he’s back on my lap. It’s hard to eat with a five-year old wrapped around your neck.
I run into the hospital room where my son is lying clutching his finger. The top came off in a door at the YMCA and, on hearing the news, I have not just broken the speed limit, but almost burnt out my car’s engine on my drive to see him. He tries to be brave for daddy, but he can’t help dissolving into tears when he sees me. I hold him close and the world stops. It’s not moving at all. I’m sure of it. Love has met eternity. Right there in that little room.
Love stops time; exists for us within time, yet is above and beyond it. “He is not a lover who does not love forever,” wrote Euripides thousands of years ago. Shakespeare echoes the sentiment when he writes,
My bounty is as boundless as the sea.
My love as deep, the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
Love draws us to the eternal, and while infinity may contain the same connotations, it is not the same. Infinity speaks of something that never ends, but the biblical meaning of eternity has to do with relationship, not time. When the Bible talks of eternity, it has in view something qualitative, best expressed in John’s gospel. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
That they may know you. To know and be known. Isn’t that the essence of love? To hold and be held by our God. I have a photograph at work in which my son sits on my lap and looks up at me, smiling. He was three when it was taken. He adores me in that photograph. And I look down at him in love. For me, it is a picture of eternity.
“Can we do hiding, daddy?” Luke runs into our bedroom, jumps on the bed, and hides under the covers. I delay a minute or so, until I hear him calling “Come and find me!” whereupon I come into the room declaring loudly, “Where’s Luke? I wonder where he can be?” The covers start moving and muffled giggles can be heard, especially when I wriggle my hand underneath and start tickling. “There he is!” I gather him to myself and hug him. His joy at being found is only equaled by my joy at finding and then holding him.
I have eternity in my arms.
© Richard Collins 2014