Love at your own risk

Heartbreak is inevitable, but the reward is everlasting

One year ago in this space I wrote about what our beagle Rosie had taught me: unconditional love, wonder, dependence on others. But in November, Rosie started to refuse food, her favorite time of day. Over a few months she ate less and less and we soon learned that she was experiencing acute kidney failure. In March we buried her in the backyard under a beautiful, shady vine with a small concrete angel to mark the spot.

It was tough, and I’m not even a dog lover. She was a part of our family. Plus, she was so easy to make happy — so much easier than to make humans happy!

Having a pet signals a strange choice. We open our hearts to love these little creatures while knowing that we likely will watch them grow old, and that one day we will say goodbye. To love them is to accept their eventual departure. But we make the choice again and again.

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Love is the great risk. When we love, we put our hearts on our sleeves and hope for the best, knowing that they could get tromped on. It’s the choice in marriage: for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. ‘Til death do you part.

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Love endures. It transcends hurt and loss, even life and death. It’s the most excellent way to a better you, a better neighborhood and a better city.
In his poem “Love’s As Warm As Tears,” C.S. Lewis writes, “Love’s as fresh as spring/ Love is spring:/ Bird-song in the air/ Cool smells in a wood/ Whispering ‘Dare! Dare!’/ To sap, to blood/ Telling “Ease, safety, rest/ Are good; not best.”

To love is to dare. But it’s a good, healthy dare. Choosing to love brings more goodness, more joy and more hopefulness to our lives than any potential sadness. On the other hand, to not give and receive genuine love ranks among the greatest tragedies of life. It leaves us scrounging in our own self-sufficiency, detached from our natural inclination to be social animals and stingy in sharing our gifts with others.

Paul in the Bible called love “the most excellent way,” affirming love as a kind of road to the best possible life. He said that when everything is said and done, “faith, hope and love remain, these three; and of them all, love is the greatest.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Why is love the greatest? Each of the three point to a better day, and life would be cruel without them. Faith is what we trust in when things are uncertain; hope is what we long for. But one day the need for faith and hope will cease. An old hymn says, “Faith will vanish into sight, hope be emptied in delight, love in heaven will shine more bright …” Love endures. It transcends hurt and loss, even life and death. It’s the most excellent way to a better you, a better neighborhood and a better city.

Love is the path that leads to the best possible world.

So love the ones around you bravely. Love your pets. Love yourself. Love your neighbors.

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“Dare! Dare!”

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