A love story for the ages. A simple love story. A small love story. A quiet love story. It’s entirely unglamorous, and – yet – doesn’t it speak to us?
“I mean, those aren’t very romantic things to say, but they stir my heart.”
What do we hold up as desirable… as a model to emulate or aspire to? In our modern, cosmopolitan times, we are bombarded by imagery of youth, distorted beauty and ugliness-disguised-as-beauty. Sex sells. Attention is money. The retina display is more realistic than actually BEING THERE. Life is a series of economic and commercial transactions disguised as success and experience.
Hold on, that can’t be right, can it? These inhumane conditions of postmodern post-Christianity we’re steeped in… is this really what our hearts long for?
Of course not. The malaise and restlessness in our hearts (so many of us feel it) is a fitting response to these daily messages that the world communicates to us – somewhere deep in our bones – even if we are not consciously aware of it – we know that this is not what we are made for.
Enter Danny and Annie.
She lights up the room in the morning when she tells me to put both hands on her shoulders so she can support me… she lights up my life when she says to me at night, wouldn’t you like a little ice cream, or would you please drink more water.
We can hear love. Who knew it was audible? Is it the soundtrack tricking us? No. We HEAR the love between Danny and Annie as they speak and listen to each other… in their half-interruptions and abashed chuckles as one or the other finishes a thought. Even we who do not know first-hand what it’s like to love someone in marriage for 27 years. Love penetrates even cold hearts, it warms even those hearts most damaged or confused about the meaning of love.
Love is not lust. Love is not selfish. There is nothing glamorous about the crackle of an old man’s voice, or an old woman’s knotty hands resting on a table, or on the forehead of her cancer-stricken beloved.
We work, we struggle, we suffer out in the world. Love is our sanctuary waiting at home… the sanctuary that redeems all the toiling and suffering, that gives us hope even in our days of sorrow.
When a guy is happily married, no matter what happens at work, no matter what happens in the rest of the day, there’s a shelter when you get home…
Perfect Love does not have an escape hatch. God does not abandon us when we rebel against Him. Love does not abandon the beloved in hardship. Entering into a marriage with the subconscious assumption that divorce is possible – on a theoretical level – is to begin an endeavor on a distorted premise on the nature of Love.
Love is slow-burning. Much as we may be mislead, Love is not characterized by fireworks and sudden explosions. Love is the self-giving smallness of a “romantic weather report.” Just because. What do you say after so many daily love letters? The novelty wears off. The banality sets in. Unless it doesn’t. Unless Love and Hope fill those spaces and kitchen tabletops. Love is twenty-seven years later and an evening offer of ice cream.
A mere radio interview that inspires radio listeners to write to Annie after her husband’s death? Condolence letters from strangers which fill the void – however imperfectly – of what used to be daily love letters from Danny? That is superabundant Love. Love that comes from nowhere, self-generated. It is the answer to the very prayer of hope Danny speaks into the microphone before his death.
Just because. For no good reason or special occasion, and EVERY DAY. Deus Caritas Est. God is Love. He shows us mere glimpses of the reality of Love in our human relationships. If two humans can experience this kind of love… if it brings tears to the eyes of strangers… if it stirs our hearts to desire… what then do we stand to discover in the promises of Heaven, when we will see God in the beatific vision?
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end –
In my mind, in my heart, there has never been,
there is not now, and never will be another Annie.
LOVE WITHOUT END, AMEN
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