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What I Learned About Love From Death

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You never know who will teach you about sacrificial love. I learned about it most when I lost the love of my life.

I got a call that my husband was dead around 1 p.m. on a Saturday. By 1:30, my house had started filling with friends.

It stayed that way for hours. Close friends, friends from church, pastors, neighbors – they showed up to hold me as I tried, sobbing and bewildered, to navigate those first few horrible hours.

The couple who were our best friends drove me 3 ½ hours that night to pick up my daughter, who was camping with friends. We got home at 3 a.m.

That’s genuine love.

Friends were at my kitchen table when I crawled out of bed a few hours later after tossing and turning against my daughter’s tear-soaked body. My kitchen was filled with food and paper plates and napkins and cups. Hands reached out to hold mine, shoulders were available to cry on. My best friend asked her mother to come down from her home two hours north and stay with her kids (it was spring break week) so that she could be at my house as much as possible.

We shared our grief. We share in grief.

That’s genuine love.

My sister and brother-in-law showed up that next day after making a 12-hour drive with their two young boys from three states away. They stayed for two weeks. Another girlfriend came every day with her Bible and her weeks-old baby. Everyone helped me with the photo board and memorial service … and patiently listened to me ask “Why?” about a thousand times.

That’s genuine love.

My dad and my husband’s best friend took me to meet with the man at the crematorium. All I remember is that I could not lift my head off his little round conference table, so they handled all the business details for me. I didn’t find out until two years later that another couple purchased the urn for me. I didn’t even see it for two years – I literally did not have the strength – so our best friends kept it until they realized they needed to gently force me to take ownership.

My dad went through our paperwork and organized it. My mom came every day and cried with me. For years after, they altered our traditional holidays because I just couldn’t handle them the same anymore.

A neighbor lent her garage refrigerator for all the extra food that kept being delivered. Another friend of my husband’s tracked down his estranged children on the other side of the country, and one of my girlfriends bought them plane tickets. A couple from church lent us their beach house the day before they went home so that we could all rest and reconnect after the funeral.

That’s genuine love.

A year later, my city experienced its first serious hurricane. I had to ready a 3000-square-foot house all by myself, and I cried through most of the preparations, desperately missing my husband’s strength and steadiness and protection.

The next day, a friend of my daughter showed up with his pickup truck and chainsaw to see if I needed any help. I never called this sweet young man, and he had no idea a tree had gone down in my backyard. He hacked it up and hauled it away all by himself. A year later, we had another bad hurricane. I lost another tree in the backyard. He showed up that day, same truck, same chainsaw, same huge heart.

That’s genuine love.

That wonderful young man died a few weeks ago at age 28. Suddenly and tragically, just as my husband had. I went to his parents’ house, joining some of the same friends who had filled my home 12 years earlier. I wrapped my arms around his mom, and held his dad’s hand, and cried with them and all of the people who filled the house who had loved this young man and been the recipient of his love and goodness.

We shared our grief. We share in grief.

That’s genuine love.

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Clare: obsessive watcher of shore birds who loves spending hours shopping online for things she’ll never buy

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