by: Fr. Nicholas A. Marziani, Jr., D.Min ~ Pastor Emeritus, St. James Church
Valentine’s Day is, of course, now in the rear view mirror, with perhaps just cards and credit card charges for romantic dinners and expensive chocolates to remind us of the occasion. But love is a constant theme, “makes the world go ‘round” as an old song put it, and sacred Scripture even goes so far at one point in the Christian tradition to assert, point blank, “God IS Love.” Pretty heavy stuff here!
So when I reviewed my file of interesting articles appearing in the media since the New Year I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to re-read an intriguing piece entitled, “My 100 Love Letters to my Dying Father” (WSJ, January 11-12, 2020).
Aside from evocative artwork that depicted a woman typing on a laptop with flowers arising from it and encircling a representation of a man holding his little daughter’s hand, it was the word art that invited me to read the article in the first place: “When he considered shooting himself to end his struggle with cancer, I wrote to him daily about why he shouldn’t. It had effects I didn’t expect.” Ah, the Unexpected – how could I pass up the piece?
I will spare the reader the medical details of the older man’s situation, and get right to the heart-tugging. The author, Kimberly Cutter, indicated that hers had been a rough relationship with her dad as she grew into adulthood. Nevertheless, she relates, “But through it all, my father and I loved each other – at times helplessly.” When tempted to cut off communication she’d inevitably come back to happier memories, even “magical” ones in the author’s own words. So her dad’s revelation that he wanted to violently end his life brought a revelation of another sort to her. Quite simply she said, “. . . what I needed was a way to make my father feel loved”, salve for his hurting soul.
Ergo the title of her WSJ piece. She started sending her father daily emails, the first of which started out, “Reasons Why I Love You.” And it went on and one for the next hundred days.
The real kicker, though, was her “confession”, so to speak, of what the whole exercise did for her. “It turns out that you can’t send someone a reason you love them every day for 100 days without falling in love all over again.” She concluded, “It sounds simple, and it was, I suppose. But it did not feel simple. It felt miraculous.”
That’s the language of spirituality, not mere theological platitude. Eventually her father did pass from this life, forgoing the revolver for barbiturates. Still very troubling. But the lady had changed forever. And maybe you and I can do the same by simply communicating our love for someone who, for all the externals, desperately needs it.