Bill receives his seventh round of chemo today. Unfortunately, it coincides with one of my busiest weeks this year, so I am not able to be with him. I have managed to arrange my schedule around the changes in our life thus far, but it was impossible this week. The truth is my not being there bothers me a whole lot more than it does him. In fact, one evening this past week we had a conversation about how this journey with cancer has impacted our lives. It was clear instantly that Bill’s concern is the impact this is having on me. Of course, that is the least of my concerns.
In that moment, I was reminded that this is the core of what love really means. It isn’t an artificial humility or courtesy; it is genuinely caring about someone else so deeply and passionately that you come to think of their needs instinctively, at least as naturally as you do your own. As I sat there with Bill thinking how blessed I am, I wondered how long we have loved one another this way. It feels like forever, but I suspect that 35 years ago we had to work at negotiating our needs and understanding what the other person really required to be happy.
Now I tell Bill that he has to get well for me. It is a selfish thing to say, but that isn’t why I say it. I know that nothing will motivate him more than telling him what I need and asking him to do something for me. I have no doubt in my mind that he would do anything in his power to make me happy. I know this to be a fact because it is true for me. It is how we are hard wired now. I don’t know when it happened or really how I know that it is absolutely true. At this moment, there is nothing I want more. There is nothing I want in this life other than for Bill to get well. Period. The fact that this is what I need and want most is the strongest motivator for him because, for the two of us, that is what love means.
I hope you love someone like that. I hope you love like that, period. It is the goal of my life to live with that kind of love toward everyone because, if I read the gospels correctly, that is what made Jesus who he was. He didn’t love just one person that way; he lived his entire life with his heart wide open. It is a risky thing. God knows I’ve had people I trusted betray me and stab me in my heart, but you know something? Those wounds heal, and, in the end, living with hearts wide open is life. All else is simply being a tourist.
Rev. Michael Piazza