I had a lot to learn.
You see, the saying isn't "To Love Someone is a choice" - it's "LOVE is a choice."
It's right there.
All you have to do is choose it.
And to understand that you have to understand what all your other choices are: love, yes. But also hate. Or cruelty. Or indifference. Or avoidance.
See, at any moment, in any given situation, you have sitting before you a table dressed in emotions. It's yours for the taking - what are you going to pick?
Standing in a line that's way too long, in the hot sun, tired and sore, just wanting a drink of water, and you see three women nudge their way in front of a group of people ahead of you. They're lost in conversation and don't see the slip. But you do. And you're angry and annoyed because, seriously? You have been standing there for the past 45 minutes. Who do they think they are disrespecting everyone else like that? This isn't right! Something needs to be said!
And I'm not saying it doesn't need to be said... but I'm telling you that this is when you look over that table and see what's being served: anger? Hate? Rage? Or that one plate in the middle, the one shining in light? The one labeled LOVE?
And when you don't care for that girl your son is dating - the one with the kids and who obviously doesn't take commitment seriously - well, yes, you do have every right to discuss your concerns. But do you choose to do it with love? Or do you pick up that disgusting plate in the corner labeled HATE that smells of rotting eggs and start hurling insults and rude comments instead?
Love is a choice.
I never began to understand that more than when Avery died.
Because even with every step of this grief journey that table is laid before me. And there are times when it's tempting to just pick up the ANGER plate - because that one always seems to be placed in the most convenient spot and is the lightest to pick up. It doesn't take much energy to lift up anger. But that LOVE plate - it's so heavy. That love is overflowing everywhere and you have to use two hands and - well, sometimes it's just harder to choose LOVE.
But I do it. Every single time I go for that LOVE plate.
Sometimes my arms are weak and I can't seem to get a good grip and the plate falls... then I comfort myself with the VICTIM plate. (Never take too much, though. It's like caramel popcorn - it's deliciously tempting, but the whole bag at once will leave you feeling absolutely sick.)
Avery's birthday will be this Saturday. It's a day that I honestly didn't want to come because I can't imagine not having her here for her special day. We had such an incredible time on her last birthday. I cannot even begin to explain how absolutely perfect it was. And I knew it at that time. Because, at Olive Garden, I remember looking over the table at her and thinking she was growing older. I was thinking about how as girls get older they tend to not want to hang around their moms all that much anymore. And I remember thinking, "If this is the last birthday she enjoys with me, I'm pretty lucky - because this has been more than I could ever ask for!"
The next day we were at Starbucks and she decided to sit at a table by herself. I just sat and watched her and thought of how beautiful she was becoming. So grown up. I thought about how quickly time goes by and how quickly kids grow. "She's going to leave me too soon," I thought. But my mind was foolishly thinking she would fall in love with the man of her dreams and move to some faraway place to do mission work. (Ironic, isn't it? That she really has...)
Did I know, even then, that my time with her was fleeting? Was there some whisper on my soul that was telling me to love tight because our time together was coming to an end? Something that told me to drink in every curve of her face and the sparkle in her eye because it would be a forever time before I would see her again?
Every single second of every single day I look across that table laid before me and struggle to pick up that heavy plate of LOVE. My back aches and my arms shake but I am bound and determined to choose LOVE. And so her birthday - as much as I want to hurl anger and rage and unfairness and victim - I pick up LOVE. And I will rejoice and thank God that Avery is with Him in heaven. I will rejoice and say Thank You, Lord, for those whispers on my soul that caused me to take way too many pictures and to stop and stare to soak her in.
And in the nineteen days following her birthday - when I walk those days straight toward the first anniversary of the day of her death - a day no mother should ever have to celebrate, ever - I choose to walk them with LOVE. I choose to spend those days encouraging others to spread joy and kindness and compassion so that everyone can have the strength to choose LOVE over hate. Regardless of what anyone else picks up from their plates and hurls my way.
And on the 24th of October, when I have no energy left, and it's too hard to breathe, and my heart aches for the child I can no longer hold, for a kiss I can no longer feel; when my soul is weary and I cannot stand, even then I will choose LOVE. Yes, even then.
And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these
1 Corinthians 13:13