A year ago at this time, Nate and I knew nothing of the terminal cancer diagnosis that was about to crash into our lives. But he was experiencing serious back pain and was looking forward to “going under the knife” for a chance at reducing his agony.
Spring was difficult as he continued to work a full schedule, commuting to Chicago’s Loop daily from the suburbs. But when he arrived home at 7:00 pm, he was exhausted. The stresses of lawyering didn’t compare to the strain of fighting constant pain.
Nate became especially low during the weeks when I was packing up the house to move. I’d spend the short evening with him and then, after he was asleep, would head back to the basement crawl space.
As I dug into boxes of memorabilia, I came across reminders of past friendships and events. It occurred to me Nate might enjoy looking at some of the items if he couldn’t sleep during the night. Good memories might be a happy distraction from the pain that continually tormented him.
He always sat on one end of a short couch where the lamp shone well on his reading material and the table was just right to hold his coffee, Post-its, pen and phone. I decided to try my idea and put a letter from an old law school friend on the table. I knew he’d see it before the night had ended.
In the morning, the letter from his pal was lying on the kitchen counter with a Post-it note attached and a “remember when” statement. My plan had worked. For at least a few minutes during his painful night, he’d been lifted to a different time and place.
As I continued working in the basement, I’d set things aside to use in the middle-of-the-night “mail drop.” And every morning the item was in the kitchen with a note attached. Eventually he told me he looked forward to seeing what was on the table, thanking me for this nightly walk down Memory Lane.
And then I found the letter he’d written to my parents shortly after we were engaged. (The Marrying Kind, Part III) I set it on his table, and in the morning his attached Post-it had two lines of poetry on it:
Come live with me and be my love.”
After 40 years of marriage, Nate had again declared his love for me. One of the lines in his letter had said: “Love for Margaret is a spiritual gift with which the Lord has blessed me.”
When I first read that, it sounded grandiose and exaggerated. But in thinking about love being the creation of God, Nate’s declaration was on target. Scripture says God himself is love and that true love always initiates with him.
I do know one thing beyond all doubt. Nate loved me unconditionally. His Post-it note, attached to the letter he wrote 40 years earlier, bookended a lifetime of love toward me that had not waned through all those years. Because I was not always loveable, and because Nate loved me anyway, there is no other explanation except to say, as he did, that love is a gift from God.
And I’m thankful Nate unwrapped it and shared it with me.
“Let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God.” (1 John 4:7a)