Crucifix as the Truth of Love
About 10 years ago my mother, a woman who makes it one of her Lenten offerings to read a book (because she doesn't enjoy reading), GAVE ME a book on the virtue of love. I knew then that I had to read it!
For the first time, love was presented to me as a choice. Love was not something one fell into or out of, rather it was a commitment, a choice to be devoted to another.
The idea of love as a choice was important to me for more than my own personal growth. It helped me to understand my mother and father. See, my father has advances Alzheimer's Disease. He has had symptoms from this disease for about 20 years, with the past decade being the most obvious and difficult.
When my father first evidenced symptoms, I don't think I fully understood what was happening. I struggled with impatience as Dad seemed to not follow conversations and not follow through with little tasks. He seemed aloof to my perspectives and became easily irritated with the smallest things. I didn't understand, and I grew distant. Even as I learned of his struggles as something medical, I still struggled with how to relate to him as he changed. My mother, in her wisdom, had me read about love as a choice and it changed everything.
Fast forward to 2021. My father is still with us but is in a nursing home now. Due to COVID restrictions, my mother has not been able to touch her husband in nearly one year. Her last time seeing him in person, outside, with 6 feet distance was over 6 months ago. This has been devastating.
February brought my parents' anniversary and shortly thereafter, St Valentine's Day. The dilemma faced each year came head on... What do I give my parents to honor this day? Drugstore cards with couples laughing, pictures of wine glasses clinking, chocolates, flowers, silhouettes of couples... they just don't get it. They don't get the fullness of love.
Yes, there was a time when this was the picture of love and maybe it is the "prettier" picture for some; but it isn't the full truth. And when faced with the tough times, it seems to be a slap in the face - not because it is joyful and what we experience is sad, but because it misses the beauty of the full picture.
Love is what I saw my mother do every single day before the COVID shutdown. Love is going to be with my father for every lunch and dinner, feeding him every meal, assisting with every shower, massaging his back, cutting his hair, brushing his teeth, holding his hand until he is fast asleep. Love is giving everything without expectation of a single thing in return. Love is sacrificial. There is such beauty in this kind of love. It transcends paltry conversation; this deep love is felt from a different, spiritual union, it is in fact recognized by the recipient, as his restlessness turns to peacefulness.
When I was younger, I thought the crucifix to be a bit harsh and that hasn't changed much... because it is, isn't it? But it is also devastatingly beautiful. It takes my breathe away. God provides us this beautiful reminder that in the harshness of life, we are called to look to Christ as our example. We are called to live out our vocations with the honor and dignity we promised before God at the altar. Love isn't just giggles, kisses, heart shaped froth in cappuccinos and a dinner date. True love is so much fuller, deeper, a union of souls before God himself. When we view the crucifix as true love, then we find a goal to shoot for in our marriages and our relationships with others.
So, what did I get my parents in honor of their anniversary and St. Valentine's Day? I drew this crucifix for them and wrote words on the true meaning of love, as experienced by their child.
Happy anniversary and a blessed St. Valentine's Day, Mom and Dad! I love you and ALL your marriage represents.