I ask myself over and over again, “Is it better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?”
Of course, it is better to have loved and never have lost, but really has that ever happened?
To have never loved, sadly may mean you have never been loved. Hopefully that is at the extreme margin, and few there are who experience this. But for those few who find themselves in that situation, I only hope love comes your way, if that is your wish.
So, the question remains, is it better to have loved, and to have lost?
I knew a guy who was five years older than me. He was student body president and a first string varsity football player in high school. His girlfriend was homecoming queen. Of all homecoming queens of all time, she seemed the most beautiful of them all. She was half Latin with jet black hair, perfect olive complexion, and more, much more. They belonged to the same religion. He went on a two and a half year mission for his church when he turned nineteen. When he returned, this beautiful creature had married an older fellow.
Eventually, my friend ended up marrying a very cute blond girl who loved him.
But he never seemed as happy as before. Years later I mentioned this to his father. His response: “he never got over his high school girlfriend.”
For a few, when they’re young and lose that first love, they never seem to get past it. Luckily, however, most do. But for those few who don’t, at least they’ve had that. For them it must mean that it is better to have loved and lost, even if it happened very young in life. The word “better” becomes key doesn’t it? What does better mean in this specific context?
I know a girl who is ten years younger than me. In her early college years she was the very cutest among her peers. Many a young guy fell in love with her, but she fell in love with a tall, dark handsome young man fresh back from his Mormon mission. They made a stunning couple. You could tell that she had never loved as deeply as she loved this young man. They married. I lost track of them. Decades later I saw her again. She was still beautiful. But the first words (almost) out of her mouth were that her husband had left her after twenty five years of marriage. She freely admitted that it broke her. She has never gotten over it. She’s open about it. She describes her life as having been full of heartache.
This is how cruel love can be. You give your all, and then love can turn on you when it is least fair.
But again, is it better to have loved and lost? The word better becomes key once again. What does it mean? Is it better to have loved a man for twenty five years, to have given birth to children, to have lived and worked together to purchase a home, to have saved, to have sacrificed, and then maybe as maturity begins to set in, your partner leaves you. How can that be better when it comes to love?
That’s hard to figure out.
Love is not perfect. It’s uneven. Sometimes it rushes in and envelopes you. But then, it can quickly vanish, leaving you vulnerable and unprotected.
The words love and rational are not equivalent terms. Love is fire and burns up rationality.
Love is risk. You engage it not being fully aware that you can lose it.
So, is it worth it? Is it better to have loved and lost?
While you are in love, it is worth it, even if you are not aware you might and often do lose it.
Nothing makes sense of life if one has not tasted how alive you feel when struck by the passion of love.
And nothing prepares us for the work of survival like love lost. If you lose it, you are lost. You struggle to breath, to rise, to face a dreary day. But, you do. As you slowly emerge, you never forget either the love, or the lessons from love lost.
My first love was in tenth grade. I wrote love letters to her from songs on a Jan and Dean album. As the relationship evolved, small stresses set in. Eventually, I went through so many emotional highs and lows, I finally traded love in for hate. Hate mellowed and settled for: “Let’s make sure I don’t repeat that again.”
My second love was toward the end of my senior year in high school. That was a love that made me happy. Again life got in the way of that relationship after about a year. She wasn’t a Mormon, and when I told her I was going on a mission, misunderstanding ruled the day. She ended up marrying a little over a year later. My parents waited to tell me until after I finished my two year mission in Argentina. From this relationship, I knew what I wanted in a relationship if it were to ever happen again.
Finally, when it came to my wife, I exercised rational thinking. She’s wasn’t like the first girl. She was more like the second girl. I had no hesitation. I nearly married her on the spot.
It was funny how it went from there. It’s hard to explain: whenever she is in pain, the intensity of my emotions is triggered. One time she had an operation and the next day had to start walking. She was bent over. It was so painful. I could barely stand it as I supported her along with the attending nurse. After she finished and we got her settled in her bed, I stayed. As far as I can remember we were talking as we usually do. The attending nurse returned to check on my wife. Out of nowhere, she made the comment, “the two of you love each other.” I looked up at her and noticed how young she was, maybe her mid-twenties. For a moment I was at a loss for a response. I felt like our private world had been invaded. All I could think of saying was YES.
My wife once asked me, “If I were to die, would you marry again?” I answered after a moment’s thought, “I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it. Maybe, I guess.”
After years of marriage, I think that was the dumbest thing I’ve ever said to her. No, I wouldn’t marry again. The thought is repugnant to me. I want every living moment with her, and if it ever were to turn into a memory, I want all of that too. I wouldn’t want that to ever be interfered with.
I openly love my wife. I love her company. She now has the time to challenge my theories. She also has her own. There has never been a time in her life when she hasn’t traveled extensively. Almost the same in my case. So, now when we travel we talk about everything. I live for the give and take, the questions, the responses. Unity of thought is not necessary. In fact, the diversity of thought is what is so pleasing to me.
My favorite way to travel, no matter where we are in the world, is by car. We’re alone, and that’s when we talk uninterruptedly about every subject you can think of – politics, children, grandchildren, goals, finances, art, philosophy, the best meal we’ve ever had, dating before we were married, the songs that remind us of that time, our defeats, our victories, etc.
We joke with one another. We laugh. She’s good at accents, and will pick a particular accent appropriate to the story she’s telling. It cracks me up. I can tell more stories, but not better ones. We’re not beyond having flare ups. Her favorite line is, “You’re starting to use your patriarchal voice.”
That bugs me when she says that. I’ve worked hard at overcoming that. Our communication is more honest when my voice is level to hers. However, she can go off on me every once in a while. Its effect is to get me up and going. I try to avoid those times. I’m concerned her blood pressure will go up.
I have this friend who lost his wife. He was in show business, and remained loyal to her their entire married life. She died fairly young from cancer. He confided in me that he wouldn’t remarry. He said that he was happy knowing she was out of pain and safe in heaven. “I don’t need any more than that,” he said. “I’m not sad. People wonder why I’m not sadder. Is there something wrong with that?” He asked. “No, Jack,” I said, “there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s everything right about it.”
I know another man. He’s very powerful. He lost his wife about twenty years ago. Because of his position and title in the world, he was encouraged to remarry as quickly as he could. All his colleagues facing a similar situation did. He has remained unmarried, stubbornly so. When his wife died, I wrote him a letter relating some of my fond memories of her when he was my mission president. He reached out to me. He gave me gifts of two of his paintings. Why? He loved his wife. I knew at that time he would not marry again. One time friends of mine said he had remarried. I knew they were wrong. I know when a man loves a woman so much he has no desire to interrupt that love.
Those two men sum up my sentiments. My good fortunate is that I have had the company of my wife longer than either of the two of them. If that were to ever change, I could say with all the confidence of which I possess, it’s better to have loved, and lost, but I wouldn’t want to stick around too long after the loss. I’d be ready to leave.