Thursday, June 3, 2010

Love is..........

Thinking about what it means to have loved and be loved can cause anyone to feel as though they are fighting a losing battle. Love is illusive and it is unable to be proven. There is no test that can tell us if something is true love or simply a fleeting high caused by endorphins or mental delusions of lust. Love is just a word. But this word has had many songs, novels, and poems written about it, and wars are repeatedly fought for it, therefore love can hardly be just a word. The emotions evoked by love can be all consuming, and can even be disheartening, yet people continue to search for, create, and covet love. Love is the one human condition that we all strive to discover, even with the knowledge that it may not always bring joy.

There are several different ways in which love is expressed: love for a child, love for a lover, love for family and friend, love for nature, love of self, love of humanity. The list could go on and on into the infinite. Anytime there is a genuine appreciation of life, there is a possibility of love.

Because our society reflects an objects value by price, we have a tendency to measure all things of value with numbers. Love is no different than any object of value, and it has fallen victim to our competitive spirit via our preoccupation with numbers and measurements. I am referring to our desire to quantify love, in order to reflect its importance. We attempt to measure love's success in terms of time. The longer the relationship exists then the better the relationship is. It is celebrated in how long people have been married, in how often we talk, and in how long we have been friends. It suggests that the most successful way to measure love is for it to stand the test of time. There is a caveat, what if that love was not meant to stand the test of time? What happens when a love is fleeting? Does that signify it as being less important or not significant?

I believe love is transient and fleeting. It cannot be something we covet. We must let go of it in order to realize it's power. The concept of letting go, or not holding on so tight, is the common struggle we all have with love. If we let go of what we love, then how can we quantify it? And, if we cannot quantify it, then how can we prove to others, and to ourselves it's value? For this very reason, the attempt to measure love in terms of time leads to a destruction of love, or a perversion of it.

I have been considering the meaning of love recently because of a new love in my life. This love will not last in human years for very long. In fact, this love has already surpassed it expiration date. This love has a very important purpose, but one that can be taught in a very short and brief amount of time. I have a niece, who has been born with Trisomy 13, and is not expected to live longer than a year. Her name is Melissa, and my heart and soul are full of love for her. This love may be fleeting and transient, but it is a deep and powerful love. It will not be able to be measured by time, nor will it even try to stand up to the test of time. Even though our time together will not be long, she will hold a spot in my heart that will not ever disappear. Because of her, I have learned that love does not have to be measured in order to determine its worth. The value of love is not to be determined by its ability to withstand time.

Her parents will not always want to tell her story to everyone they meet, but that does not change the significance of her life, or how we love her. She will always be a daughter and a niece, and her parents will always be her mother and father. Her soul is like a flash of lightning during a storm. It lights up the sky and shows us all that is hidden by the cover of darkness, and then dissappears as quickly as it appeared. Her soul is a beacon of light that has warmed all of our hearts. She reminds all of us how blessed we are to experience life and love no matter how brief and painful.

I have come to believe that love is not something that should be measured. It will never be able to be quantified. No one will ever be able to tell you why love has affected them in the most moving ways. We all create a web of love in different patterns and sizes. It is an intricate weaving of threads, some of threads are bare, some are breaking, and new patterns are always being made. We continue to weave the web, knowing that someday our web will be knocked down, but we continue to build it because it will sustain us. Love sustains us.

Love is about wanting others happiness, and has nothing to do with our own. It is the most challenging and daunting of all emotions to experience for its purity. The most fitting description I have heard of love is in a song by Leonard Cohen, "love is not a victory march, it is a cold and it is a broken hallelujah". Melissa's life may not have a victory march, but it will certainly be filled with hallelujahs.

How do you define love?


  1. Hi Joely - Thank you for sharing this beautiful reflection. I have been thinking a lot about Melissa since you first told me about her. I've been thinking about her parents and you and, of course, my own kids and my status as a mother.

    Before becoming a parent myself, I might have thought that there were different degrees and quantities of love, but since having my boys, I know that love has ways of growing and bending that defy description and definition. In The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje writes: "The heart is an organ of fire." I believe that and I believe that the love that it produces is infinite.

    I wish your family and Melissa's family peace and strength and boundless, boundless love during your time together. You will all continue to be in my thoughts.

  2. I'm so sorry, Joely. This will be a tough year for you and the rest of Melissa's family. But ... you are right; she'll feel nothing but love and will leave a mark on everyone who meets her. Let us know if there is anything we can do.

  3. I've got tears in my eyes... what a heartwrenchingly beautiful post. Melissa and her family will be in my thoughts.

  4. Joely, what an amazing post, thank you for it. I have come to believe that life is all about the love you can share and give to others. And even though you know your family only gets Melissa for a short while, and that's bittersweet, it does serve as a lesson of sorts of treasuring what we're given when we're given it, and so dramatically. Knowing she's going to leave your family gives you the knowledge to treasure every moment.

  5. I love this Cohen song as well. Hallelujah, hallelujah. So haunting. So beautiful. I have felt these emotions in tandem when it comes to love and love that is leaving.

    What a wonderful tribute you've written you Melissa. I am glad to be made aware of thinking about love as something not to be measured. I think I fall victim to that desire sometimes: "Do I love them enough? Is their marriage more loving than mine?" On an on. Chaos of thoughts.

    This is put so simply and with such compelling circumstances who couldn't stand up and take notice. Thank you for your insight.

    Of course I will continue to keep your extended family in my thoughts as you bond with this little one.

  6. Beautiful....and once again, left me in wrote about something that I've never considered. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Joely, I've been struggling with this... because I just don't know what can be said to provide comfort and reassurance at a time like this. This is the great mystery of life, isn't it? That things happen with no apparent reason, and all we can do is go on, one day at a time.

    You have written such a beautiful love letter to baby Melissa and your family. I can't get over it, I keep going back to read sections. This one catches my eye: "This love may be fleeting and transient, but it is a deep and powerful love." What a beautiful mystery, that love can be both fleeting and deep. It can come quickly and suddenly and leave us forever changed.

    A few weeks ago I read something from another blogger - but just can't remember who. She said she has three children, but only two are with her. The other (a miscarriage) is waiting at a special daycare in heaven, where she will be picked up by her parents one day. That image warmed my heart a little in its bittersweetness.

  8. The beautiful Melissa, one month old, died June 6th 2010. She was an amazing little fighter with a marvelous spirit. I am blessed to have been in her presence.

    The beauty of life is, while we cannot undo what is done,
    we can see it, understand it, learn from it and change.
    So that every new moment is spent not in regret, guilt, fear or anger,
    but in wisdom, understanding and love.

  9. Well I have to go find the tissue box... with that said this really pulled my heart strings. This made so much sense to me, and something I needed to read because I've always thought of this but I couldn't ever think of it in a logical way that actually made sense or I could completely comprehend.

    "Love is no different than any object of value, and it has fallen victim to our competitive spirit via our preoccupation with numbers and measurements. I am referring to our desire to quantify love, in order to reflect its importance."

    It fully made sense when you said the Cohen lyric, I've always found a fondness to this song, Jeff Buckley's version, and I loved the lyric that you explained... and I never could fully understand the whole meaning but it really stuck out to me and the way you explained it... i know exactly why i liked that lyric so much.

    You are the greatest role model anyone could ever imagine to have. I enjoy how much you have experienced life with your lively spirt and your beautiful soul,and face!.

    Again my sympathy to you and your family. Thank you for teaching me something I couldn't before fully understand. I love you and your beautiful family.

  10. So sorry, Joely. My thoughts and prayers are with Melissa's whole big, loving family :-). I'm sure her spirit will live on.

  11. A friend of mine who has struggled with multiple miscarriages and one still-birth had a baby this morning. I thought about you as I was celebrating.

    That circle of life... We're all somewhere on the merry-go-round.