I used to ask Stephanie this several times a week. It started one day when we were laying in bed and I honestly couldn’t remember. I asked her, she said she didn’t think so, and I told her I loved her. After that, it became more of a running joke, where even if I knew I had, I’d ask her anyway. Sometimes she’d respond that yes I had, and others she’d say or pretend that no I hadn’t. Regardless of her response, I’d tell her then that I loved her and make sure she knew how much she meant to me.
This past Sunday was a rough day for me, figuring it would have been our six wedding anniversary and 7th anniversary of us dating, and since it marked nine months since she died. I intended to write this blog post then, but I just wasn’t mentally up for it. Instead, I decided to “embrace the suck” and just let the grief hit me. It was one of the most difficult days yet. While I usually can visit the cemetery and attend mass tear free, not Sunday. Thankfully some friends watched Sarah for the afternoon so I could sit alone with a bottle of wine Stephanie and I bought the year prior in Lourdes that she never felt well enough to drink. Instead of watching our wedding video together like we had done every year, I watched it alone. Every part of the video, from her walking down the aisle, to the readings, homily, vows, first dances, speeches, and our karaoke performance with the wedding party, reminded me of two things: first, how much I miss Stephanie and wish she were here. Secondly, it reminded me of how much love I had and have for her, how much she loved me, and how much love was shared with us from family and friends.
Love was everywhere in the church and reception hall that day. When we think of love, or at least when I do, I think about romantic love. I think about the soulmate, romantic, deep love where you’d do anything for the other person. Less often I think about love for family, including for parents, siblings, and children. This love is still strong and often still involves willingness to sacrifice to help them. Lastly, I even less frequently think about love of friends. This love doesn’t have the same romantic elements as a spouse or natural bond that comes from family, but if you actually love a friend, you’re willing to sacrifice for them.
The theme here for me seems to be the willingness to sacrifice something of your own, whether it’s time, comfort, convenience, or something else, in order to help them. John 15:13 says “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. While that’s taking love to the extreme, the point I gather from that is that love comes down to sacrificing ourselves for others, in large ways or small. So that got me thinking into what the true ultimate sacrifice would be. Our lives are very important, and willingly giving yours up for a loved one, relative, or close friend is certainly a sacrifice. Perhaps even more of a sacrifice would be to give your life for someone you don’t know, for a stranger. Or most of all, dying to save everyone who has ever lived, who is living, and who will live. That’s love I can’t even begin to fathom to understand.
God sending Jesus down to earth, who then willingly died so our sins may be forgiven, can certainly only happen if God truly loves each of us more than we can imagine.
More than we can imagine. That’s the part that gets to me. Anyone who’s been around me (I hope) or probably people I haven’t met who’ve read through this blog, know that I loved Stephanie more than anyone else on earth. My love for her grew through our time together, especially as we faced her diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately death together. That’s part of why our anniversary was so difficult for me, because it was supposed to be a day where we celebrated our love together, and instead she wasn’t there (physically at least). The grief I have, the pain, numbness, and heartache, all stems from the amount of love we share. I can say I’ve loved more deeply than I imagined, and without being able to accurately quantify it, I’d say I’ve loved “a whole lot”. Yet the love God has for us is surely even “a whole lotter-er-er” than what I’ve felt or experienced.
So while I made a point often to tell Stephanie how much I love her, and I do now more frequently to Sarah, how often do I let God know I love him? I realize that if I lay in bed at night and asked God, “Have I told you I loved you today?”, the answer may not be yes as often as it was for Stephanie. Additionally, I could change that to say have I shown you I love you, and that would probably be even less for Stephanie, Sarah, and God. Stephanie and I used to clarify when we said that we “loved each other more than anyone”, we’d always add “on earth” because we acknowledged that God should ultimately come first in or marriage. Yet I would say I did a better job daily of showing Stephanie my love for her than I did God.
So how do I do a better job of that? I don’t completely know. Prayer will help. Conversing with Stephanie helped me feel loved by her, so talking to God should be similar. I also would talk to people about loving Stephanie, and she let me know that she enjoyed hearing from other people what I said she meant to me. So another way would be to share my love of God with others. Now for me that sounds easy, but executing it? I don’t even know where to start. I guess that gives me something to work on.
Not a day has gone by in the last nine plus months where I haven’t told Stephanie I still love her. And I know that I will love her forever. (Side note, the wedding vows we picked to say weren’t the ones we actually recited, but I’m so glad. Instead, the ones we said stated “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life” instead of “til death do us part.”). I hope that each of you, if at the end of the day you were to ask your spouse, child, closest friend, or God, “Have I told you I love you today?” that he or she would be able to respond with a resounding yes.