Earth Day, Arbor Day, yet another wedding Anniversary - the occasions of April that, for me, are heavy laden with beauty, joy, and sorrow. Today, on our wedding anniversary, I’m thinking especially of my beloved husband Leighton. We adored each other in a love for all time, a love of equality, a love of nothing-held-back full-out commitment, the love of true, once-in-a-lifetime soul mates.
It’s hard to imagine heaven, that better place, when we had heaven here on this earth. This is the power is love. We were sweethearts, lovers, and best friends committed to a partnership of mind, body, soul, and spirit. I miss him. I long for his presence with intense desire, I want to feel his spirit by my side. I grieve anew that our lovely romance and marriage were cut short by his untimely, unexpected death. This, too, is the power of love.
On December 28, 1999, the usually peaceful gardens of Versailles in Paris were devastated by a powerful wind storm that uprooted more than ten thousand trees. In just two hours, trees that had grown there for over two hundred years were destroyed, trees planted and cultivated since the seventeenth century. The Society of the Friends of Versailles sent an urgent solicitation for contributions to replace the trees. Leighton and I were not members of this organization, but we were certainly friends of Versailles.
It was our custom to mark special occasions in our life with remembrances rather than personal gifts. So, in honor of Leighton’s seventieth birthday in 2000, I gave a new tree for the gardens. Months later an acknowledgment came that identified the location of “his” tree in the vast park. When we visited there to celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary, we looked for the tree, “his” tree - a small, brave sapling, one among thousands of new specimens. We didn’t find the tree, only the general area. There’s not a plaque with Leighton’s name inscribed on it, yet I have the pleasure of knowing that something new and green grows in his honor, and now in his memory.
That was our last day in Paris, our farewell to a beloved city forever. In life we never know when the moment of farewell will come or what forever really means. Who contemplates the meaning of forever when marriage vows are spoken and the pledge is made to be married “until death do us part”? Death has the power to separate us physically from our loved one for a while, but it has no say in the “how long” of forever.
And so on this day I remember and rejoice, I grieve and give thanks for the life of one so dearly beloved, for seventeen years of God-ordained love and marriage. Our life together was all joy. I know with certainty that love never dies, that love “can outlast anything” (1 Corinthians 13:7 JBP).
A tree grows in a garden. And life goes on.
And, above everything else, be truly loving,
for love is the golden chain of all the virtues.
Colossians 3:14 JBP
Keep me this day, O God, in the glory of eternal love. Amen.