The semi-famous Death Cab for Cutie song illuminates the idea of death in love. Regardless of your thoughts on death, the potential for an afterlife and even “love” itself–I think we can all agree that “love” takes many forms. Let me also propose that “love” takes work and choice.
It’s not an easy thing to do, and I don’t believe in “falling” in love. You “fall” into a ditch, or down a flight of stairs. Real love is something you choose to do. It’s not something you accidentally stumble upon.
I’m not trying to connect the trivial coincidence of this song kind-of-having-to-do-with-love and death, and the point I’m after. What I want to do is talk about life and the effects of “choosing to love.”
My ankle was broken on November 19th, and I’ve suffered a little.
When I say, “a little,” I recognize that my “suffering” is a minor inconvenience–as compared to someone who can never walk, or someone who has a fatal disease. Nevertheless, I find myself looking at those who can walk with envy. I think “how they take that ability for granted.”
Dying is something that we inevitably do–not something that we choose to do (in most cases). I propose the same is true for “dark times” in one’s life. If I had the choice for my ankle to not break, you would not have seen me on crutches this Christmas, or New Year’s Eve, or JuiceBall. Yes I will heal, and you’ll see me walking, dancing and probably jumping onto, and off of, more high places.
My point is: I have to endure those consequences alone. Just like death, I will have to face my life alone–during the light times and the dark times. No other person can share my unique perception of this, or feel what I feel–high or low. That is, unless they choose to be there for me.
This idea brings me to my point. A person can’t follow another person “into the dark,” as Death Cab would suggest a kind of metaphorical shared death. A person can, however, come alongside a friend in need–when they are hurt, sad, lonely, frustrated, broken. This takes work. This requires choice. This is love.
When I was a young boy–just as loud-mouthed and offensive as I can be now, I’m sure–I used to venture into our very dark Michigan basement. I don’t know if it was for play, or to retrieve a lost toy, but I would do it from time to time. Blame it on curiosity or childhood necessity. All I can remember is that it was scary down there. The cement floor was cold. Strange noises from the furnace and plumbing sounded like monsters lurking. On these adventures, I could not suffer the fear alone–even as the oldest son.
Emily, my sister, or sometimes my mother or brother, John, would venture down with me. They didn’t have to. They chose to. And I can still feel their hand gripping mine, clenched in a shared fear.
But what I remember most is the love, the trust and peace. Just knowing that someone will choose to help me when I’m in need.
Knowing that someone “has your back,” knowing that someone will do the work to show you real love, can make all the difference. It’s fuel to the flame of resillience, and it will be the strength we need to push on.
My best friends in the world have shown me real love in the past months. They know who they are. What I want them to know is this:
“I will follow you into the dark… basement.”