Need to Love
We need love—the highest attribute, according to Scripture: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
C.S. Lewis identified the four loves as affection (storge), friendship (philia), romantic (eros), and charity (agape), which is the unconditional love of the Father given to us through his Son. But our first love—and the majority of the love we experience—is affection. The care of a mother for her child is the picture of this love.
Carol Smith loved her son Christopher. Due to a rare condition, his kidneys had sustained irreparable damage in utero, and doctors offered little hope for his survival. But Christopher lived, oh boy did he live, thanks to extraordinary medical care, extraordinary parental love, and his extraordinary love of life. Smith tells his story in Crossing the River: Seven Stories That Saved My Life, A Memoir.
She also tells another story, her own. You see, seven-year-old Christopher inexplicably died one night. It took his mother twenty years to address the wound.
Need to Grieve
“This is a book about trauma and grief,” she writes. Smith, a journalist, masterfully weaves her story of love and grief into stories she’s covering for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (the P-I).
Seth, the boy with progeria, an extremely rare, progressive genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly and die in their teens to early twenties. John and Billy, living with severe burns to their faces. General John Shalikashvili, recovering from a massive stroke. Gerri, the critical care nurse who put together one of the first palliative care units for children, ran a group for bereaved mothers, and lived with breast cancer. Rose, who lost her legs in a work-related accident and lived to bear the child she was carrying and another. Darbi, who lost her first child to stillbirth and a twin in the second pregnancy. Laura, Smith’s 105-year-old grandmother, who’d served as a front-line army nurse in World War I. The Seven Stories That Saved Her Life.
Smith: “Many years after the fact, I realized that writing about these people for the P-I was my way of reenacting. I was, in essence, telling the same story over and over again, looking for a different ending.” The what-if’s that my husband and I think about at times, remembering his daughter, who I never met. We would have celebrated her 45th birthday last month, but she’s been gone for 20 years.
None of us gets a different ending. But if we’re open to giving and receiving love, our stories become witnesses to joy, sorrow, and resilience.
We love, we grieve, we hope.
Need to Hope
Hope is found in agape love. The other three loves—affection, friendship, and romantic love—can help us grow this love and find peace. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
But in this world, as Kathy Escobar wrote, “Peace doesn’t mean our circumstances will change. Peace doesn’t mean our hearts are completely still and settled. Peace doesn’t mean we don’t still weep or wail or feel afraid.”
And yet, we continue to open our hearts, minds, and souls to love.
We need faith, hope and love. But, as Carol Smith knows, the greatest of these is love.
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