No, actually I have not. What I have told you about is how during our 34th year of marriage Susan was diagnosed with stage three, triple-negative breast cancer and then after her double mastectomy they found a new lump on her then breast-less chest. That I told you about -- if you went to see The Actual Dance, the play.
One looks for the love story in two teenagers (we were still in our teens when we got engaged) falling in love and staying together for now about 52 years since we first met. What I learned though is that love is much deeper and comes not with the lure and lust of the teenager, not with just the time spent together – or apart (“Love makes the heart grow fonder.”), and not even with growing older. Love comes with finding the common breath in the relationship: the shared essence or soul that is discovered in existential moments.
Our true love story begins in the 34th year of our marriage. The first 33 were spent taking each other and the relationship for granted. Our engagement in 1965 and wedding in 1966 was the culmination of a complex set of events and family history. Young people were still expected to get married if they were going to or were having sex, we needed each other for economic as well as emotional needs and it was what everyone else seemed to be doing. Of course we got along with each other, whatever that means.
In many ways and for many people all of that is “good enough.” You meet someone you like. You have an attraction to one another. Then you get married. It can be “good enough” for a life time.
Love, however, develops during a relationship, not at the beginning of one. Love is not an arrow through the heart. It is instead a bonding of souls that intertwine to the extent that the two beings are spiritually one. That is our Love Story. What does it take to bond souls together?
Maybe, we were B’Shert –destined to be with each other. Maybe there is a divine element or destiny in some relationships. And even if there is, it needs ultimately to be found by the couple. If God is involved, God intends for us to discover the divine presence. We have had to endure. We made a promise and even in the face of relational hardships – when it seemed easier to quit than stay married, we stayed married. We had common experiences. We suffered deep losses in our families together and were there for each other during those difficult times. We gave each other room. We both had active careers that enabled us to be our own professional selves while sharing our marital status, if you will.
Most importantly though I think we found our true love when we each faced the existential challenge of Susan’s cancer. In a famous love story, Love Story, the memorable line is “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” Our experience is that Love was found when we believed we were saying good-bye.
Our gift is that Susan survived. Every moment in our relationship since then is a gift of time that we did not expect to have. It has taught me that love is a divine potion that involves the complete intertwining of two unique souls. “Each and Equal Half of the Other.” Or a Sacred “US”.