|Andy, Ricky, and Ellen|
The day before the van arrived to move my family and me from our house in suburban Philadelphia to our new home in Baltimore, our children’s pediatrician, Dr. Harold Medoff, felt it necessary to admit our son Ricky to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital for tests. Ricky had been extremely weak and pale following a severe case of chicken pox, from which his older sister Ellen and younger brother Andy had recovered in normal fashion.
While I was in Baltimore awaiting the movers, my wife Margie stayed overnight with friends back in Havertown, so she could spend the day at the hospital with Ricky. In the midst of that hectic moving operation, there came a telephone call from Dr. Medoff to inform me that Ricky had been diagnosed with leukemia, which was at that time a death sentence. There was no hope of a cure.
My first question upon hearing that devastating news was “How long. . .?”
“We can’t know for sure —maybe months, maybe weeks,” was the reply. “It depends upon how he responds to the treatments.”
Ricky lived for sixteen more months, precious months. The drugs available then enabled him to experience successively shorter periods of remission. One day shortly after we had settled into our new home, I was watching him playing on the floor with the wooden blocks that I had played with as a child. He loved to build elaborate castles, forts, and all kinds of imaginative structures, in and around which he would station his toy soldiers. My heart was filled with love tinged with the sadness of knowing that my little boy had an incurable disease.
As I sat there I was acutely aware of my emotional state. It was as if I were observing my love and experiencing it at the same time. A surge of immense gratitude swept over me, as I realized in a way that I never had before what a precious gift it is to love and be loved, a divine gift. I was not just loving Ricky at that moment; I was savoring the experience of love and thanking God for it simultaneously. I could not find the words to express what I was feeling. It was too wonderful for words.
And that joyful feeling of grateful love was immediately expanded to include my other two children and Margie. I realized that we were all precious gifts of God to each other. I tried to express my feelings to Margie, and in her wise and wonderful way she understood. From that point on the words “I love you!” had an entirely different meaning for both of us. The only expression that seemed to come anywhere near capturing the feeling was “savoring love.” Margie and I savored our love for each other for more than 67 years.
The transitive verb “to savor” has several different groups of synonyms. The group that comes closest to what I am trying to describe includes verbs like “to appreciate,” “to enjoy,” “to relish,” “to delight or rejoice in.” My own definition would be “to experience joyfully and gratefully.” It is gratitude that gives savoring its divine dimension. Gratitude must have a personal object. You can’t be grateful in general. You must be grateful to someone, and I am grateful to God. I don’t “thank my lucky stars” for my children and for Margie. I thank God.
That is what I mean by savoring love. When you savor your love for someone, you never take that person for granted. You know that he or she is a gift of God, and what a beautiful gift it is to love and be loved. It makes true love even more beautiful. It’s like adding Accent to your pot roast; it brings out the flavor! That’s an inadequate analogy, but it serves to make the point that savoring love for each other adds a new dimension to a couples’ relationship, a deeper awareness of and gratitude for the gift of love itself.
|A church directory photo|
Grieving is painful, that’s true. But there is something beautiful about grief, and I have been endeavoring to put my finger on what it is. As I have been trying to express in these articles my feelings about the grieving process, I think I now understand why it is that my grief is something that is not morbid but beautiful. It is because I am still savoring my love for Margie.
And I always will.