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Understanding Love

By Liz McCoy


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Love struck with awe and surprise. One night, I noticed my solid, gentle, kind husband -cutting tomatoes. I felt the Love that catches you off guard, causes your lips to smile, the crows’ feet around your eyes to crinkle. In that moment, my heart filled with a very real physical sensation.

What does a heart fill with in these moments? It is Love no doubt, but how to describe it? Can the discovery and re-discovery of Love and its many facets be confined to words, to stories, to one moment of understanding?

About two years ago, I completed an ultra marathon; I ran 100 miles through the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. I trained for over a year and I had no idea if I would finish or in what sort of condition. The start was cloudy and cool. As the sun rose, I saw the crisp leaves covered in frost; then I saw the first snow of the season. I saw streaks of light shadowing the mountains through the clouds, onto the Great Salt Lake and the mountains surrounding the Salt Lake Valley. There was nowhere else to be than in those mountains, familiar yet unfamiliar, running and hiking, alone while surrounded my others and by nature. I Loved this moment. Nothing else existed. There was no finish, there was no start; there was no past nor a future. These moments are Love.

As I think of Love, I am reminded of the time I took our 2 and half year old foster daughter to the park hours before she was to be re-united with her Aunt. It was a joyous, sad and very hot. We ran through the park sprinklers again and again until I stopped. The small girl in my arms looked up with her round brown eyes and used her hands to sign the Sign Language Sign for “more”. At that time, she had no verbal language and we had been teaching her basic signs to help her communicate. This was her first sign; the sing for “more” accompanied by a hopeful smile and those large round brown eyes. Off we went to run and sing and dance and laugh while the feeling of Love filled my heart. It was a surprise. It was inexplicable, this Love, like all Love, perhaps?

Love of a child reminds me of our new 17 year old son. The three of us, me, my husband and son, have known each other for two and half years. We know so much about him, our new son, and yet, we know nothing at all. Sometimes when I say I Love you, he looks at me and through body language expresses the question – how do you know? Truth? I don’t know how I know, but I know I Love him. Sometimes Love just is…

On her last days, a friend described my mother “as a dispenser of joy and happiness.” It was true, my mother Loved in a unique and special way. She Loved those who helped her dress, took her temperature, and fed her. She Loved those who dropped in to say hello, those who called and those who wrote. She befriended her Multiple Sclerosis like a Lover and then later her cancer. She laughed through it all, through falling, through pain, through paralysis, through death. Perhaps more importantly she made us laugh and Love with her. I Loved her, her wit and her smile.

Sitting in hospice on one of those hospital chairs that pull out into a bed, of sorts, I rested my arms and head on the bed rail. Nothing else existed but her breath, slow and not so steady, her beautiful face, me and Love; an eclipse of Love. Light surrounded the dark.

Dropping my pre-conceived notions that Love should be something, anything, creates space in my mind, my soul, and my heart to feel Love, to offer Love, to accept Love, when it is least expected; to see light in and around the darkness.

Do I understand Love? No, I don’t. And I hope I never do.  

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