Husband and I are part of a care group…a bunch of folks who have decided to intentionally do life together. We meet for a dinner once a month. We ask each other honest questions and have candid conversations. We share of love and life and faith and care for each other. We pray for one another. We get to know each other more and more.
This last Sunday, Husband and I hosted care group. I made dinner–appetizer, main course and dessert. It was a lotta work but even more fun.
It’s a heap easier hosting when it is actually co-hosting with Husband. He vacuumed and tidied and set the table while I puttered in the kitchen. Awesome.
After dinner, Husband led the conversation of the group. He had sent out an email earlier in the week. When Husband and I talked about what to put in the email to talk about, we wondered how to set the conversation up–what topic to focus on, and how to shape it.
One pair in our care group, my friend J (she’d the one I went to Chicago to see Oprah with) and her husband, just celebrated a quarter century of marriage, and it was close to Valentine’s Day. It made sense with this marker and with Valentine’s Day so close to think about love as the topic du jour.
And yes, she is wearing her wedding dress. The one she wore all those years ago on her special day. Yes, she can still get into it.
I know!! I had the same reaction!
But in addition to several couples, our care group also has a wonderful friend whose husband died a year and half ago. Cancer took this man that so many respected and loved. S is an important part of our group…and she comes alone.
We took a deep breath and plunged in deep…cuz you see, part of the philosophy of a care group is not to avoid important topics out of fear or discomfort because that’s not authentic. We decided instead to take on the topic in a sensitive way that would include her. My thinking is that grieving folks don’t want to be tip-toed around, or have their losses overlooked out of awkwardness. Ignoring her loss in this season by avoiding the topic seemed more wrong than risking the tackling of a hard topic.
Carolyn and I were thinking about the topic for the evening, and one presented itself. P and J celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this week. Woohoo! Congratulations. So we thought that love and commitment would be the theme for the evening. What have you learned from your spouse about love? How are you a better person because they are in your life? How do they reflect God in these areas? S, I know your love is in heaven. I didn’t know W all that well, but I would love to hear stories about him. What made him laugh? How did he show his love to you? How is your life better now because you were married to him? How did he model God’s character?
So…after dinner, Husband invited folks to reflect on how they had experienced the love of their partner. Some of the men shared first…openly and vulnerably and honestly. They let us in on how their lives were richer for the love of their spouse. I think for the women, who often feel more comfortable talking about emotional stuff, it was significant that men jumped in.
As a group, we noted how it is one thing to know that one is loved by a spouse..and quite another to hear that love specifically and clearly proclaimed in front of others.
Eyes filled full and hearts fuller as we heard about the love extended from one spouse to another.
To be truly seen as someone who often felt invisible was remarkable to her.
It was a gift from him to her that was profoundly treasured…both while he was alive, and still now, after his death.
The next day, I bumped into S. She told me of how, when she read the email days before the event, she had wept. It was one more opportunity to mourn the death of her husband in a world and a life where these opportunities are already overly abundant. But she came.
I was reminded of something powerful on Sunday.
Our love is best lived and expressed in community.
It was a gift to celebrate love and relationship not only with a life partner, but with the witnesses that are important in my life. I was encouraged by the vulnerability of the group…for the men that shared how their wives love them in front of us. That takes courage for a guy to talk about that stuff in our world. The women talked too, and it was magical.
Somehow, at the end of the night, I loved them all more. And I felt more inspired and encouraged to be loving myself.
And W taught me something on Sunday…he taught me a lesson in death that I could not have learned when he was alive:
When I am no longer on this earth, I want my love stories to live on and be easily told. I want to leave no doubt that I cared, and that folks in my life mattered to me. I want them to be able to laugh as they tell of silly moments where I was so clearly enamoured with the folks in my life. I want them to have watched me be ridiculously in love with Husband, with my Junior Tribe Members, and with friends and colleagues. I’m hoping that they will have memories of lavish grace extended; of profound sacrifice and mercy during the tough moments, and of love received. I am hoping that tales will be recounted of how I loved well…just like W did.