The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent in the United States each year. Leighton and I faithfully supported this industry – it was our small tradition to give each other beautiful cards rather than gifts on special occasions. He always seemed to find the best ones, which he inscribed with a passionate, heartfelt expression of love. And because these are among my most cherished keepsakes, I’ll find a quiet time today to read again some of his Valentine’s Day cards, an earthly reminder of his great love for me.
Leighton and I shared eighteen years of extraordinary romance and joy. We adored each other. Our earthly love was a love for all time, a love that is in my heart forever. Goethe described it perfectly, “This is the true meaning of love – when we believe that we alone can love, that no one could ever have loved so before us, and that no one will ever love in the same way after us.”
For many months after Leighton died I struggled with the order of love in my life. As I searched for peace I asked myself if I put my love for my husband above my love for God. No. The love of God does not preclude - it ordains and blesses love. For the divine nature of love is not to control but to free, not to limit but to encourage, not to possess but to share, “God is love” (1 John 4:16 NRSV). We love because God first loved us.
I found relief from this question of grief when I realized that love coexists – there’s limitless space our heart and soul for every love. One love does not exclude another, it’s not “either/or”. The exponential power of love is the more there is, the more there is to give away. We survive our grief and go on to live in deeper, richer love for others - family, friends, and those who need our love - more fully united by the love we have known with the one we remember and long for today. Love is all-inclusive, abundant, and infinite.
As we reflect on the gift of love this Valentine’s Day, our grief is eased by the assurance of faith that love is. As you grieve anew today, perhaps you’ll take comfort, as I have, in the assurance that nothing is lost or compromised if we release our emotional grip on the past and relax into the certainty that our love endures - forever. The love we’ve shared is never lost to us. Love is real. Love is everlasting. The absolute power of love transcends every circumstance of life, even death. “Take heart…” (Matthew 14:27 NRSV), love never dies. Love can outlast anything.
Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.
1 Corinthians 13:7-8 JBP
Keep me this day, O God, in the certainty of eternal love. Amen.