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29 April 2021
Nancy: The Simple Dignity Of Loving
May 1st is the anniversary of the death of my Beloved Wife, Nancy. Nancy died three years ago a few minutes after midnight on the first day of May, a month of prayerful significance.
I miss the infectious delight of Nancy’s smile, her unquenchable spirit of adventure, her risk-taking readiness to try everything. I miss the engaging edge of her humor and the courage of her resilient spirit. I miss moments of laughter and silliness and the exchanges of our secrets, some of which we found poignant, some hilarious.
I miss the rare, life-changing trust which grew between us, and the times of consoling one another when people who knew better were unkind or indifferent. I miss our once-in-a-lifetime friendship which guided our struggle of mutuality and candor which is always at the heart of Godly marriage.
I am so often moved when I recall her quiet strength and resigned acceptance with which she carried the insistent suffering of her later years; years when her character flowered and the depth of her love of life and family matured and gave her - and me - ineffable peace, even as the unavoidable sorrow of parting approached.
I am grateful for the journey we shared as we evolved from playful distractions into decades of getting to know one another … and ourselves. We moved together into our later years, a time of loving beyond our ego’s defenses, beyond the fearful isolation which impedes generous giving of oneself and wholeheartedly accepting the other, embracing the Beloved.
Nancy’s hard-won depth of understanding and innocence was merited by many pain-filled years. Her struggle was summed up in the words of the psalm which she taped to our garden window next to her chair so she could read it many times daily, “Be still…and know.”
Nancy left a grand legacy of love and learning. The lessons I am still learning with her - and from her - began with the realization that to achieve our hopes and ideals together, we must both make the personal changes which our marriage demanded.
Indeed, every honest marriage inevitably faces the realization that personal changes are absolutely essential if marriage is to “work.” Learning and acting upon this simple truth is the cornerstone of every solid marriage.
This lesson is often missed when lovers do not recognize or admit that this truth is hidden in the familiar. This lesson is often obscured by work routines and householding pursuits … and, most of all, by the stubborn defenses we build around our egos.
But it is evident that a marriage which seeks enduring love and trust and fidelity must create sacred moments for mutual candor and reverie. Ideally, in these prayerful moments, we give birth to knowledge of - and deep gratitude for - one another.
The outcome produces a depth of trust which moves us to reveal our hearts … an outcome which affords both of us consolation of our souls, such as we find nowhere else in this lifetime.
This crucible of self-revelation is, in fact, the place where a marriage of mutual trust and dignity may be formed by facing, rather than fleeing, the instinct to avoid truth or the urge to hide.
It may indeed be a painful experience. But an enduring relationship is solidified only when psychic suffering is mutually endured and generous sacrifices made, each for the other. This path is the only reliable means to the ideal marital outcome which all committed lovers seek with their Beloved – for a lifetime.
The hard truth is that loving - truly loving - another always involves a cost to one’s self, ofttimes a very heavy cost; this is inescapable -- but entirely as it should be, as it must be.
So, I remember not only the gifts of mind and heart which we exchanged. I also remember the efforts to truly love one another which Nancy and I invested into our married life. But I am also deeply grateful for the quiet understanding which developed as we learned to give of ourselves to one another.
There arose between us a union borne of her incessant pain and our Catholic faith, enlightened over years with her extraordinary patience and unquenchable, loving spirit – and so much more.
Thus were our lives quietly blessed in the passing of time and in the daily mysteries which slowly opened to us in the small, familiar but often difficult routines of life. Nancy learned through her pain to patiently accept the gradual revelation of God’s ever-present embrace in the familiar. And I was often astonished at her goodness through it all…………………
I used to wonder often (as we all do at some point) why maturity of heart and wisdom of soul are so closely linked to pain. Now, it is evident to me that maturity and pain are two sides of the same hand, a mandate infused into human nature by our Creator. It is a mandate exemplified in His own life on this earth; a mandate many do not recognize because it is so present - in the familiar.
This belief is, of course, part of the mystery of Creation … but like all mysteries, clues to the truth are all around us, ever before our eyes, filling our lives and senses to the brim – in the familiar.
It is not this divine mystery - revealed to us constantly in the familiar - which is inherently difficult. It is our refusal to see, to be still, to know beyond ourselves, to acknowledge the love which abounds, to accept this truth of Creation – a truth which is ever evident in the familiar, all around us.
We would be wise to profit from the grand, ever-living legacy of Nancy and people like her – beloved people whom we are blessed to know and love in this world.
We would be wise to let their love and their example overshadow all else in our lifetimes. Their love and example may, if we allow, animate our lives, even in times of loneliness and great pain … if we have the God-given sense and the humility to see and admit the grandeur of life – in the familiar.
These are a few of the lessons I continue to learn from the grace of my marriage to my Beloved. With the gift of such divine goodness revealed to us each moment, is it not obvious that the blessings which this life holds for us are surely endless and quite real …… all around us – in the Revelation of the familiar.