Alone Again, Naturally.

Rescued by a Love Now Lost

Duo Dickinson / 5.10.22

“Will you text me, every day, so that I know that I am not alone?”

So said a 77 year old, who I have known since my birth.

She had just lost the love of her life, after 60 years. She had been alone for five years before that meeting because her parents, our parents, made it clear to her that she disappointed them, having done nothing except not live up to their hopes.

I, too, was alone when she was alone at 15. But I was 6. I had learned that life was extremely complicated for my parents. I understood nothing (I was 6) but I knew the screaming that happened every night. I did not know why, but I came to know that I was somehow not stopping it.

For myself and my siblings, it was a decade after innocence, starting at around when I was 6, beyond which our parents could not be part of our lives, because their lives, after World War 2, were submerged in alcohol and overwhelmed anything but their own survival. Children were at first somehow necessary, but then, somehow, impossible to deal with.

So my sister found her husband, she ended her time of screaming, school, and living with us, and found a way to be with someone. For 60 years.

For those 60 years, I was always connected to something beyond the screaming (which ended for me when I was shipped off to downtown Buffalo when I was 13). Like my departure, that connection was not a choice. Or even understood. I just knew that I was not alone.

I did not, really do not, pray — beyond apology and thanks, and only when I see what has happened in a life that I had zero role in choosing, or avoiding. Because I am not alone. In those 60 years I have gone to school, made mistakes, had realizations, love, and children of my own — all things that are harder for those who are alone. And I have no idea why. But I know that I am not alone.

Without understanding, life is a coping exercise. Without faith, it is just survival. But love creates its value. Without love, the only value we have is the mere survival we can only ascribe to ourselves. But that is never enough, and always fails.

These 60 years, for me, has been a sea of effort, swimming against the current to survive. Those 60 years, for my sister, were spent being loved, and not part of the screaming. For our other sibling, it was 60 years of running from the screaming, until there was nowhere else to run to, and left this life.

I knew, without understanding, that God was just there. In every stupidity and every illusion of triumph, I knew that I was not a victim, or a hero, I was, inexplicably, loved. Of course, to those in full control of their lives (right) I am just “projecting”, or coping, or inventing my own survival. Right. But the opposite is true. The love of which I speak exceeds mere survival, and is often its opposite. Existing beyond my projections and attempts to control, this love persists with me even when I wish it weren’t there. But my sister found love, too. It saved her life. My other sister did not, and its absence cost her her life on earth.

All the rituals of faith we create are nice. The music, the words, the things done by those in sacred places and moments that we design are wonderful. But after the fact. Those wonderful tangibles were there for my siblings and I, but they were not enough. My sister found love, my other sister, did not, and the love of God meant that there was love in the family my wife and I made, with no others around us.

Those rituals we make, whether the jaded pantomimes of the sibling, mother, soon father’s days we surround ourselves with, or our best efforts to touch God here on earth, are simply what we do to manifest the insanely powerful reality of just being loved, despite ourselves. I doubt Jesus needed to know why God loved him, that love just was Him. And it is with me, despite me.

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One response to “Alone Again, Naturally.”

  1. Nancy Hanna says:

    “All the rituals of faith are nice…but after the fact.”
    This is true. It is essential that church leaders understand this: that evangelism means bringing a person with no relationship with God as known in Jesus Christ into a relationship with the living Lord. As William Temple (1881-1944), Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-44 said: “The Christian Church is the only institution in the world that exists for the benefit of its non members.”

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