The recent passing of Christopher Reeve brought to mind a passage in his biography that I think is the perfect example of what love really is. Below is an excerpt from his biography: Still Me. It is the first time Dana, his wife, sees him after the accident, he is in the ICU:
Dana came into the room. She stood beside me, and we made eye contact. I mouthed my first lucid words to her “Maybe we should let go.” Dana started crying. She said, “I am only going to say this once: I will support whatever you want to do, because this is your life, and your decision. But I want you to know that I’ll be with you for the long haul, no matter what.” Then she added the words that saved my life: “You’re still you. And I love you.”
If she had looked away or paused or hesitated even slightly, or if I had felt there was a sense of her being—being what?—noble, or fulfilling some obligation to me, I don’t know if I could have pulled through. Because it dawned on me that I was going to be a huge burden to everybody, that I had ruined my life and everybody else’s. Not fair to anybody. The best thing to do would be to slip away. But what Dana said made living seem possible, because I felt the depth of her love and commitment.
I was completely blown away when I read this. I think in our culture people have the impression that love is all about wanting some one or needing them or not being able to live without them. But this moment described in Reeve’s book is what love really is. It is selfless, and a willingness to sacrifice or even to let go completely. It is simultaneously finding, no…creating and willing into being the strength to persevere unimaginable challenges or the willingness to surrender even if it means losing that which you love.
Part of M. Scott Peck’s definition of love included “The will to extend oneself…” for the benefit of another. In other words, love is a verb. And I am saddened to live in a culture that thinks love is a passive event that you just fall into; all about mushy feelings and being happy just because you’re around a particular person. I hope the rest of the world catches up to M. Scott Peck’s definition. Everyone should experience, at least one, the same kind of love that Dana and Christopher did.
And if anyone would like to read Christopher Reeve’s biography, I would be happy to loan you my copy