Week 6 Day 6: Gift
Question: What is the greatest experience of love you’ve ever had?
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Transcript of Video:
I remember something very touching for me – and probably the greatest instance of love that I’ve ever experienced – was when my grandmother died. And I happened to be there with my mom and my aunt Mary who stayed by her bedside when hospice was called in. And here was the three wonderful women, who had very complex relationships at points in their lives. And right there, in that room, something happened … [long pause] … I saw my aunt Mary and my mom just hold her hand and tell her it was all going to be okay, they loved each other, that not to worry about them. And there was just this amazing wash of just – all of this junk that had happened over time just being released – and it was a very pure moment. And it made me realize that in relationships, where we get hurt by one another, it’s probably actually an indication that love is very, very strong, because you don’t let somebody – I don’t think you let somebody hurt you or you don’t let somebody in so close that you don’t love.
-Br. Jim Woodrum
(1) The constancy of my life partner, his ability to give everyday in a multitude of ways. (2) My sister and I were present with my Mom when she passed on, at home as she wished to be. We shared the experience of moment of death and then I said – did you feel that? And she said yes. And I said what? She said her spirit rose. I said where? And she said – in that corner of the room, which was exactly what I had felt, she named the act and place. The complexity of that experience is infused with so many different kinds of love and undeniable. It changed me forever. (3) Someone close to me was struggling and I was present each day. He was overcome by a breakdown and I tried everything that I knew to get him to hospital. He could not connect or speak. In the middle of it a handwritten note was left for me that thanked me, expressed love and said – do not give up on me. He is terrific now. There are more, feeling very grateful.
Living in an active church community that has several recovered alcoholics has been a true gift. Not all let it be . known, but I had a unique life experience when the door to a relationship was opened, and one that I will treasure for all of my life. This person became my surrogate mother who helped me raise my children, discussed theological issues with me, traveled with me to take them to camp, secretly had them over after school (just found that our recently) and the list goes on. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several years back and fought that illness for almost 18 months before she died. Around 6 months after her diagnosis, I called her in tears. I had been released from a job that I adored serving children in need. The reasons for dismissal seemed unfounded and inconsistent. The organization was merely cleaning house. She was the second person I called (husband first). Even though she was dealing with her cancer which was supposed to be our primary concern (I was part of the team she appointed to help her through), she had me come straight to her. She put her needs aside to console me. She looked me straight in the eye and said “take your time to grieve this loss.” My spirit had been broken but she was there with me consoling me. That is great love. Her wisdom will live on forever in my heart. If I could share a microcosmic amount of love and wisdom in my lifetime as compared to hers, my time on this earth living in relationship with others would be complete. True love indeed! My faith gave me this woman. I will have her with me always.
I was very sick and my ex. husband wasn’t there for me. My friend, a chaplain, took his place and supported me and helped me through my hospital stays. He was/is a true friend. He did for me, what my husband was unable to do. This was love.
The first time my husband and I were intimate and he had tears in his eyes afterward as he felt an overpowering connection he had truly found his life partner and soul mate.
I started thinking about this question over a week ago, before I was called away and before I got a bad cold. Now that I am home and well enough to think about it again, I still struggle with “greatest.” Interesting. No one experience stands out from the rest. But the repeated acts on the part of my grown children letting me know I am loved by them, no matter what, are so very dear to me.
I can relate to Jim with experiencing a love one getting ready to die and the love is very palpable. My Dad was the greatest gift to me. A month prior to his death, my daughter and I had the opportunity to visit my Dad. We had a great night playing cards and the last words I remember hearing from Dad before we went to bed was…. “Please don’t go”. I just tugged at my heart so much. He was not much of a person who expressed his feelings but that night I knew he loved me and I was still Daddy’s Little Girl.
Through several human interactions and moments in my life, I have felt God’s love and the realization that I was precious. My greatest experience of love has come through the giving and caring my husband has given to me.
…it is very different when grandparents, a sibling, parents, and someone you passionately love dies…when one walks all the way through with the ‘beloved’ who is dying…to the end…you may have the unexpected experience of understanding that you are no longer a ‘lover’ but you understand what the beloved is.
..most often Jesus is seen as the beloved but in Marks’ gospel Jesus says, “…not my will but yours…” in this instance Jesus saw himself as the ‘lover’ AND he knew what it meant to go clear to the end…and he understood he was no longer a ‘lover’ he was worthy of being the ‘beloved.’
Many years ago while going through a painful loss I found myself alone one evening seething with anger. A “vision” of Jesus on the cross appeared before me and it filled me with rage because He had not answered my prayers, had not prevented my loss, and yet there He was suffering, more miserable than I. I hated Him at that moment and imagined myself violently flinging mud at Him. When I finally calmed down I was horrified with myself and felt totally hopeless. I could barely force myself to look at Him hanging on that awful cross before me in my vision. But when I finally “looked,” there was Jesus, not sorrowful nor condemning, but full of love for me and affirmation, nodding His head up and down saying “yes, yes! That’s right! Give me your anger–bring it to the cross. That’s why I’m here. I’ll take it away out of the world forever and you can be free.” I’ll never ever forget that look of love–I gave Him my worst and He gave me His best–not just forgiveness but total
(Whoops hit done by mistake)
acceptance and unfathomable love.
This question has reminded me of the love that I saw my father show to my mother during the last six years of her life as she succumbed to a form of Parkinson’s disease. For most of that time she was bedridden. My father became her primary care giver and was able to keep her in good physical health at home, even as she became noncommunicative and unresponsive.
A few years ago, at a time when I was changing my life and re-committing myself to my work as a writer, I received what I believe was a God-given gift: a friend. A friendship was not something I thought I wanted or needed at the time–in fact I have plenty of friends. But God with His boundless imagination could see I required a very specific friend providing a creative loving spark that not only inspired my writing, but also brought me to a new spiritual level in ways that still bewilder me to this day. I say this friendship is my greatest experience of love because I didn’t seek it out as one does when seeking a mate or deciding to have a child. It was given to me, unexpectedly, with the care and love of a parent who might say, “Take this on your journey, you’re going to need it.”
I was finding the questions about love hard to answer, and I wasn’t sure why. This morning – Palm Sunday – I told God about it. I told God that I wanted to feel that kind of love that some of my fellow travelers on this Lenten journey had described. This morning God reminded me of just how much I am loved! It was wonderful!
I felt an incredible amount of love on my wedding day from friends, family, and my church community.
As much as immediate family relationships include complexities – they are still the ones that suffer the pain of love the most for me – letting go of expectations, acceptance, loss of dreams but the building of new ones-learning to just watch what God is doing with no presumptions. Being there for one another in very vulnerable times & not giving up. Not getting what we hope but finding satisfaction to carry on & the inspiration from the mysteries God unfolds.
It was being with my Mother for the last few years of her life. She had dementia, and for her last 3 years was unable to speak coherently. She communicated with her eyes and the expressions of her face. I watched her interactions with the nursing staff, and saw her love expressed in sunny smiles, and saw it returned in the gentleness and kindness of the nurses. As her brain deteriorated, she did not always understand what I said to her, and I came to realise there is a deeper form of communication which does not rely on words, but the expressions of the eye and face and loving touch. Sitting with her during her last year, feeling her deep love in her waking moments, I was able to look back at our relationship and realise what a gift she had showed me all through her life, but especially at the end- this capacity for selfless love. It seemed to me God’s love shone out of her, and this experience has transformed my life.
Today I found this prayer by Michael Leunig
Let us live in such a way
That when we die
Our love will survive,
And continue to grow.
I pray that God’s love which I saw in her continues to grow in me, and shines forth as it did in her.
Becoming a Christian. Knowing I was joining a family whose Father would love me unconditionally unlike any earthly father amen!
The most profound and life-changing experiences of love that I have had:
An incredible encounter with God in 2012 that set my life on a new course (TB2G);
The constant, unchanging and intense love I feel for my children;
And, most recently, an experience of true love about which I can only quote the incomparable John Green: “I will not tell you our love story, because — like all real love stories — it will die with us, as it should.”
Without a doubt when my daughter was born.
My greatest experience of love was when I was mentally unwell and nobody, including myself, knew it. I got to know a chaplain who was there for me in such a real way. He loved me despite my illness. He gave himself totally to me despite the way I was. He loved what was deep down inside me. He gave me just what I needed at that particular time. He saved me. We are no longer in touch, but I remember him with gratitude.
The unconditional love of my parents and my husband, over many, many years. I’m by my own admission not an “easy” person to be around all the time. They loved me without question, and today, although all of them are dead now, I still feel their presence loving me through the difficult moments.
Brother Jim, Your two recent homilies, on Authentic, (3/23), and on Gift, today, are wonderfully spoken on love, and today’s was such an amazing gift for you to receive and to give us! Your homilies speak to my own greatest experience of love, which I’ve alluded to earlier.
After dropping off passengers whom I’d driven a fair distance to retreat for the weekend and back, driving back to my own place, on a familiar Vermont dirt road in Sept 2002, I heard myself mention what a good weekend it had been. Then I wondered, “Really? What was so great about it?” It was a pleasant, successful weekend, but this was surprising. I should be tired and looking forward to getting home. Then slowly, I felt the information float down onto me, “Oh, MY I’m in love with P… I really am in love! Oh God, what are you doing??? What is this? What am I supposed to do? Is this real?” And so forth, until I was at home and could concentrate on this amazing information in peace. I told no one until I had slept on it and lived with it for two weeks, still not wanting to rush her, and deciding to take my time, because I would know when the best time was, when it arrived. Two weeks later at a large meeting held in my church, where she was the leader and I the secretary, still I was wondering whether I should tell her then or later. During the meeting the Holy Spirit paid a visit, lighting the whole room with white light, so then I could relax until the end of the meeting, which is when I told her at a quiet moment while people were gathering their things to depart.
From the very beginning of my blessed experience, I had the feelings you discussed in “Authentic”; it kind of happens to us, all of a sudden we’re in it, a gift that God has actually given to us. Oh, this is what’s like! This is so much more authentic! and then I ran with it.
You can imagine my excitement and amazement when I first read your homily. It’s been good fun to remember just exactly how this happened! Thank you so much.
Actually it happened on March 9th … in my morning prayers after confessing my sins and asking for God’s forgiveness I felt His forgiveness. Those sins are no more.
The love that my brother and sister in law and I shared with my mother and each other as we cared for my mother in her final weeks of life. The Thanksgiving Day celebrated together just a week or so before her death was one of the most beautiful holidays of my life. Since her death, the love that my brother and sister in law and I feel for each other continues to grow stronger and stronger: a “forever bond.” And I know my mother is very pleased about this!!
I have always felt loved by parents, siblings . children, now my 2 grandsons , friends , students. colleagues, in laws and. my pets, Of course, it has not always been east as misunderstandings occur, help not given/ taken when needed and other squabbles take place but LOVE eventually wins and there is forgiveness , understanding and love grows from this I am thankgul for Jesus’s teachings of love and forgiveness..
My father gave me a huge gift of love almost 20 years after he died. At the time I was deeply depressed after a miscarriage and later that year developed an ovarian cyst that caused me much pain. One night when my husband was traveling and I was asleep at home, my father came to me in a vision. He was pure light and I was almost blinded by his presence. We hugged, and I was enveloped by the light. I could feel his scratchy cheek against mine. He said, “I miss you so much, sweetheart,” and suddenly gave me a giant squeeze that jolted me awake. I started crying tears of joy. The more I cried, the more cleansed I felt. That afternoon I went for my last ultrasound before surgery to remove the cyst, and the technician said to me, “What cyst?” My father’s gift of love brought me healing, hope, and reconciliation.
Those were the best words. The degree of pain one feels is related to the amount of love. My greatest joy was being able to spend a majority of my time with my granddaughter. She’s 12 now and her mom won’t let me see her. Now I know why the pain is so great.
I allowed my mother and ex-wife hurt me even as they loved me. Their harmful actions were not due to me or their intentions, but rather due to old wounds they brought into their relationship with me. The consequences of broken lives resemble more a tiring talk show episode lacking resolution than smiles and happy endings. So what is the greatest experience of love I’ve ever had? It has something to do with love as hard work, that we love others not despite their actions, but because of who they are, wounds and all. We love with healthy boundaries in order to continue to love ourselves and others. My greatest experience of love is with my sons, who call me to show them a love of rich nuances with tools to navigate life in a fully aware, vital and loving state, and it is all good.
That’s a beautiful comment, Anders. Thanks so much for sharing. I will meditate on this today: It has something to do with love as hard work, that we love others not despite their actions, but because of who they are, wounds and all. We love with healthy boundaries in order to continue to love ourselves and others.
Being there when my first grandson was born–with Scott, encouraging Carson and hanging out, and then Aaden was being born and she got to hold Aaden. Such a wonderful occasion.
If we include all types of love, I would have to put God’s love at the top. But let’s look at human love. This isn’t so easy. As I mentioned yesterday, I feel blessed to be in the company of my friends. We strive to love “as God.” Of course we fall short, but our love constantly grows closer in the trying. To choose “the greatest” would be a disservice to the others.
The greatest gift of love came from my wife of 44 years. Twenty five years ago, I broke our marriage coventant to be faithful to each other. She could have divorced me but she didn’t for the sake of our children and our family. She has forgiven me. Her love for me is the greatest gift I have ever know.
The greatest privilege I have had as a nurse was to provide care to my father during his last 30 days of life. I fed him, shaved him, massaged his back. I was a “daddy’s girl” and I was so blessed to be able to be with him. I hope I can be with my mother in the same way. Familial love is profound esp. In the ways others on this blog have described it.
My greatest feeling of love came when I was about 8 years old. I was adopted as an infant and always knew that but at one point I grew to understand that it meant that I had been “given up” by someone and was inconsolable for several nights. My Mom sat on the edge of my bed night after night at a loss for true answers for me about “why didn’t she want me?!” This was almost 60 years ago and she really didn’t have answers in those days. She was mostly silent except to say “I don’t know” and “I love you”. How hard a time that must have been for her too. I eventually calmed down and realized that this woman, MY Mom, wasn’t going anywhere and I had all the love I needed right there. I have been, forever after, grateful to the woman who gave birth to me and then gave me the opportunity to experience the love of both my parents, for whatever her reason was. THAT was an act of love in itself.
I remember as my mother was dying she told me not to be afraid. It is one of my most poignant and touching memories I have
I had struggled with my relationship with God for many years. A dear lady from church began coming to my home once a week and praying with me. I could not understand this ‘love’ from God. I didn’t know it, couldn’t understand it. One evening in the quietness of my small flat I was kneeling down literally by my bed praying, well more like begging to understand. In that moment in my tiny little flat with no carpet on the floor God met me and introduced himself to me. I finally understood, received, acknowledged the love, it was the most amazing experience of my life.
Too many to prioritize as “greatest.” Mostly family and church community experiences…
Living the love in our marriage that continues to both blossom and deepen after almost twenty five years together.
The greatest feeling of love (besides having my children) came from tending to my best friend through her fight with cancer and her eventual death. I am so grateful that she chose me to share that experience.
Seen: Momma caring for Daddy as he declined into dementia, and then in the nursing home. She was always upbeat and cheerful, and glowing with love.
Felt: Daddy’s love – it was (is) the greatest thing in the world for me – rock solid, uncomplicated, absolute, and given with joy
Recently my husband and I had a fight really over nothing. He was upset about something else and took something I said to him as an insult. He stormed out of the room and was gone for a long time. Finally before I went to bed I went to look for him. He was not in the house, so I went outside. He was sitting in his car. I did not say anything to him, I just hugged him for a long time. I am convinced that God was with me, telling me not to use any words- or justifications.
Without a doubt my greatest experience of love, the experience that has most transformed and healed me, helped me both give and receive love more fully, is my 25 years of marriage to a wonderful man and raising two sons together. The steady, unconditional love of my husband has healed so many wounds from my past and strengthened me to be much more courageous and compassionate to others.
The greatest love I ever received was when I accepted the will of God. My sister-in-law was dying from kidney disease and I kept hearing in my heart (the voice of God, I’m sure) telling me that I was the perfect donor match. I fought off those feelings for a couple of months until the night I surrendered to God’s will. From that moment on, despite the painful surgery and recovery time, I felt for once in my life the “peace that passes all understanding.” My sister-in-law died five years after the surgery from complications of Parkinson’s disease, but during those years she celebrated many life events, including her 50th wedding anniversary. Though our relationships had often been difficult prior to the surgery, love wedged itself between us and remains to the day.
A recent experience of phenomenal love was grieving openly with my fellow parishioners at the Advent Retreat in Rehoboth Beach. My husband, Bob, had just gone into the nursing home with dementia. Many of our best times together were at Rehoboth, and I was as sad as I could possibly be. Memories were everywhere and there weren’t going to be any more walks on the boardwalk or on the beach with Bob. Thankfully, my fellow church members loved me so much they allowed to cry and remember. It was beautiful and brings tears to my face as I think about it.
I have always had a sense of having to care for my mom, rather than being cared for. And after many years of watching her drink her days away, she cried out for help in a second suicide attempt. She successfully went through a faith-based rehab and began attending AA. I attended a meeting with her the first time I was with her after her release from rehab. I was overwhelmed by the love of all those attending that meeting. It was the first time that I was able to let go of my daily worries and concern for my mom and just love her.
All the best to you and your mom as you walk this path together. It is amazing the ways in which healing, even of very old and important hurts, can somehow steal in and transform what we thought would remain unchangeable.
I have friends, a dear couple, who have now been sober (and married) over thirty years. Perhaps because recovery involves letting go of the masks, they are some of the most real people I know. They’ve already been through the worst of themselves and learned to love themselves as they are, and that transparency lets the love shine through.
I do not mean to be presumptuous or rude but I hope you have or will get involved with a local Al-Anon group so you can feel that same sense of care and love for yourself or at least read books on Co-Dependency. Both have brought healing to me. Melody Beatie is a wonderful writer.
I suppose my ongoing experience of love is with my wife.
She just keeps doing for everyone without seeming to demand anything from those people. I know I tell everyone I love, and often I am disappointed with what others do, and become hurt. I don’t seem to be able to accept that to truly love one has to accept the way others are. Maybe I need to know more about what love is. To love one has to give of oneself without expecting any change in others as a consequence.
As a young mom, I decided to volunteer at my church. One of the very first things said in orientation went like this: ‘If you are here because you want to feel good about yourself, there’s the door. You are in the wrong place. We don’t serve others in order to receive gratitude, and don’t ever expect it. For various reasons, many people you serve will not be grateful. We don’t do this to feel good about ourselves. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.’ This introduction to service has shaped much of my life “philosophy” for the last 40 years.
One of the greatest experiences of love came through a friend. In 2008, as many folks did, my husband lost his job. Within the space of less than two years, we had gone from having a six figure income to taking a significant pay cut to move to a new town part way across the country to having a no figure income. Since our area was extremely hard hit, neither of us could find jobs. Unemployment covered only the mortgage, and then that ran out, too. The new businesses we started were so new that they brought some money in but not nearly enough, and our savings was gone. We were facing the very real possibility of bankruptcy, losing our house, and everything we’d worked for over the years.
I shared this via email with a friend, someone who I knew would pray. Since she has little money herself, lives very sparsely, and was ministering on the other side of the world at the time, I was sure there was nothing she could do about it other than to pray. I felt safe in sharing with her more than others, knowing there was no way it could possibly be taken as a hint for help.
A little while later, a card from her arrived in the mail — along with a check that allowed me to pay the mortgage that month. I was speechless. Inside the card she had written, “This is a gift from your Father.”
So happy for you, Bp. Chris!!! When ypu were Bishop of Iowa and Miller House was undergoing renovations you and your staff moved your base of operations to The Cathedral of St. Paul. I volunteered there on Tuesdays. Before you and your staff moved in we were instructed to be on our best behavior. When you arrived you and your staff created an atmosphere that was free and easy. It was really a joy to be there during that time. THANK you!!!
In Christ’s love,
I have had the bittersweet experience of falling in love (and being in love!) twice in my life. My first wife and high school sweetheart died suddenly at 54. Years later, quite unexpectedly, I fell in love with and married a dear friend and colleague. Both have given me the gift of unconditional love.
This is way to hard!
However, perhaps one of the early “miracles” was after my brother died in 2011, our parents having predeceased him in 1973 (mother) and 1978 (Daddy). My brother had been angry most of his whole life, even before he went to Vietnam and, I believe, had had some cognitive impairment, maybe dyslexia, etc. Daddy didn ‘t trust the man I chose to marry (with good reason, it later turned out), so he put my brother in charge of the trust, etc. My brother breached fiduciary duty and lost most of it in the tech bust of 2001. After he died which I was not advised of until the following month by letter, I, accompanied by my son, went to take care of the remaining affairs, including releasing my brother’s body to his “girlfriend”. Late on a Friday afternoon in November, I went to our family church where I was raised up, and while walking down the sidewalk, My attention was directed to a beautiful wooden carving of an eagle in flight atop a carved pinion. Then, I saw a burst of rosy -gold light and heard my brother’s voice, calling me by my pet family name, saying that he was “so sorry” for what he had done. During that whole series of events, many “miracles” occurred which let me know that I was being “held in the hands of God”.
Thank you Br. Jim for sharing such a personal story with us. It reminds us that the most profound gift of love may not be one that we receive, but our observation of love in others. My favorite verse is John 13:35- “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Flowing out: around the birth of my children to my child, to my wife, to the world.
Receiving: difficult. Going into a hardware store, I was tapped on the shoulder I am man in motorcycle leathers, his face was one I vaguely recognised. He grasped my hand and expressed deep gratitude for what I had done during a few moments babies life, and how we spoken of the deep feelings of fatherhood and loss.
Witnessing: the prayers whispered in the ear one of my patients while she was dying by the parents of the child in the bed next door, the priest waited before bed and the families gathered around intermingled.
For me, the greatest gift of love was when I accepted Jesus as my savior with the knowledge He died on the cross to save me. After that was the births of my children and grand daughter.