There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. ~ 1 John 4:18
At the beginning of the Gospel of John, two disciples are following Jesus, he turns and asks them, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38). It’s a good question for all of us today. What are we looking for? Why are we here? What would make life full, rich, and meaningful? Perhaps, the short answer is love.
Great love “surpasses the boundaries of religion, culture, gender, ethnicity, era, class, or any measure of worthiness or education” says Richard Rohr. “Only love can move across boundaries and across cultures.” Love is “endlessly alive” even in death.
She did not come home from the hospital to die. She came home to live, to laugh, to forgive, to bless, and to sing a song or two. She came home to surrender fully to the abundance of Grace.
Her bedroom became a sanctuary cloaked in peace that the hum of the oxygen machine could not disturb. It’s hard to describe the deep, calming presence in that room.
Sometimes when a group of us gather for centering prayer in our church, we light a candle, close our eyes, breathe, and one of us says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). We breathe the words in and breathe out anxiety and fear. “Be still and know.” We breathe in and our body sinks deeper into Grace. “Be Still.” We breathe as our mind begins to clear. “Be.” Our last word said is also the first word. Just Be.
I cannot speak for everyone, but Grandma Connie’s bedroom, her living presence, became a portal between heaven and earth. There was nothing to fix, to rescue, or to save. We just had to “Be” present. As Father Rohr says, “If you are already at home in love, you will easily and quickly go to the home of love which is surely what we mean by heaven.”
She slept most of the day, waking up when old friends, former students, and nieces and nephews arrived to say good-bye. “We had so much fun,” she told each honored guest while holding their hand. And the blessings poured from her like a warm summer rain. “You are a beautiful person.” “You are so creative and kind.” “You always had a twinkle in your eye.” And her last blessing was always, “I love you so much. Thank you for coming by, and I’ll see you on the other side.”
The tears of sadness and joy came as each person shared one last hug with Grandma Connie, a mom, an aunt, a mother, a beloved teacher, a good friend. Alan Jones in Soul Making says, “It may be difficult for us to grasp the association between weeping and the bursting forth of new life.” Yet each former student, friend, or relative experienced the generative power of love which never ends.
What are we looking for? Heaven on earth, nirvana, utopia? A love that never ends?
Jennifer and I developed a routine as we cared for her mother and waited. Love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4). I would hold Grandma Connie, who was bare and vulnerable, in my arms while Jennifer cleaned and bathed her mother much like she would have bathed Jennifer when she was an infant. We come from the garden and we return to the garden.
When I held Grandma Connie, our eyes would meet and she would say, “I bet you never thought you would be doing this for your mother-in-law?”
“No. It never entered my mind,” I said as I shifted her weight to a more comfortable position. “Me neither,” said Grandma Connie. And we laughed until she said, “It hurts to laugh,” but we couldn’t stop grinning.
Love is intimate and unites us. Love always expands the soul until no one or thing is left standing outside the circle of God’s Grace.
“If we keep listening to the love, if we keep receiving the love, trusting the love—even with all our limitations, with all our flaws, with all our limited intellect or whatever we feel holds us back—we start to experience a sense of possibility,” says Father Richard Rohr.
Love is an open door, a stream of possibilities. When every bone in our body says, “I can’t do this anymore.” Love says, “Yes, you can.” “Perfect love casts out fear,” (1 John 4:18).
Mother Teresa said, “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful.” May we be faithful to the deep river of love and grace within us, and may we be a blessing to others.
Blessings and peace,