By Carolyn Shields
And you? What do you know of love?
I was familiar with the fall at least. Over and over, and I was acquainted with the crash well enough to write about it. Castles in Dublin and prayers that encompassed four years enriched with that sweet pining, and the way he so casually walked into my café that one August day and I found out that he was staying. I've fallen again and again, but the crash would usually decimate what preceeded it, the lessons learned and graces received, leaving me dazed and needing that truth when it was hard to remember, impossible to find in the chaos inside of me.
It’s so easy to feel lost after the crash, whether it's in a warm mom embrace or collapsed on the marble floor in the middle of the aisle because you broke down before you could even kneel before the altar. Curled up on a pew, taking a minute to recollect yourself in the bathroom stall, or hiding beneath your sheets in your dorm. Because so often we feel sure during the fall, and then we are left with a glazed and empty stare when we are hurt with mountains of confusion that make us question everything. It’s easy to feel like we know nothing. Love isn’t supposed to be like that.
So here’s what I do know to help you get through this.
I know that love is found in the stars. I’ve wrapped myself in wool, driven to my remote cornfield, and laid on the hood of my car in reckless awe countless times. It’s been captured. And I’ve found it.
I know that love is sitting there next to you on the cold marble, when your soul feels torn like the temple so long ago, but the reverent has escaped and all you can whisper, with your forehead pressed against your knees, is, “Shit. I thought that was real.”
I know that the Crucifix is not a lie. Shattered, I gazed at it once too, enraged that love had brought me there, to that little breaking point, where I faced the question: was it a lie. It took a few weeks in the heart of Africa where I hid, but I unearthed that answer after digging myself out of my grave. Sweet woman, the Crucifix is our greatest truth, but that is a journey we must all take alone. The pursuit? Colossal.
I know that love is in that hallowed space, be it the breath between your lips, the distance and miles that divorces us, the transition, and the crypt. It dwells in a sacred tabernacle, in empty wombs, and stolen hearts. It lives.
I know that love has been sanctified by your pain and has seeped into this world by your open palms, even when they are empty. The lines of your hands tell the story better than any journal entry or article I’ve ever written about how badly I wanted to hold his.
I know that love writes its own story, despite our greatest efforts to edit out the mundane and the sting. Whiskers and a smoky voice and lungs filled with mountain air. My ink stained fingertips folded into his hands with dirt beneath his nails. That's how I would write it. If I could set the scene? We would eat my delicious pancakes and drink Phillys finest cheap beer, ripped jeans and barefoot and dance in front of my fireplace to Jacks Mannequin, and that would be my a-okay start to forever. I could fall in love with him the more I write, but then I would have to watch as my writings fight with truth and end in a way I never would have chosen. But love? I know that love has been and always will be a far greater author than I, though love itself begs to be written of.
Because I know that love is a beggar, wanting and needing, and it will accept the smallest offering you can give: scraps, petty cash, your funky little damaged heart right now. And in return, it will give you everything.
I know that love has a rhythm all its own, rising like bread until our hearts are full or hitting us like a comet to the chest. Waltzing into our café or drowning out in the waters, as a ripe young college student or a woman facing her late twenties alone. Love sets the cadence for all else.
At these moments, we may feel at a loss. As if we have learned nothing or know love only for the wounds it inflicts, but this we do know: love is patient. Love is kind. It is not jealous. It is not pompous. It is not inflated. It is not rude. It does not seek its own interest. It is not quick-tempered. It does not brood over injury. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
So what do I know of love?
I know that love is Holy.
And that's enough.