"It's not going to be her," I murmured.
"He said earlier that he could not get past a barrier with her... she never let her guard down."
I sat curled up in a recliner, still enveloped by unplowed roads and blizzard conditions outside, as I watched four women stand side by side and wait to hear their name called. To be granted with a single stemmed rose and no thorns, offered by a man who keeps falling in love over & over again on TV.
And I thought to myself, while this happens, while girls throw themselves at one guy for a chance to be morphed Cinderellally into his wife for better or worse, a different kind of love is fraying at my sides. A different heartbreak is tearing at my eye sockets. The woman in the limo going home and I, we cannot relate tonight.
I found out just before I clicked the TV on that a love letter recipient passed away two days ago. Before she got her letters. Before she ever knew that hundreds of strangers did their best to hitch her up good with their strongest syllables.
It happened quicker than expected. Quicker than anyone expects a mother of two boys, growing like bean stalks, to slip out from the folds of this world. Her spirit slowly dancing away from the loves she grew high like prize-winning sunflowers in the middle of August. Quicker than expected but expected all the same.
Immediately I wonder about all the things I don't want to know. Was she afraid? Was she ready? Was she angry? Was she whole? And yet, all I may ever know of this woman is what I've read from someone who requested dozens & dozens of letters be sent her way. That she was sick. But she was lovely. And she would do anything to make it so her family wouldn't weep so hard when she was gone.
And, at any moment, that could become a person's purpose-- to make it easier for others when they're gone. Because life is harder than we ever anticipated. & unpredictable. & often not tidy. & it does not tie easily into bows. & it is not always symphonic. A lot of times the melody gets sucked straight out, and we all forget the words, and the purpose behind the tune we're humming.
When the tragedy struck in Haiti and the houses crumbled and schools fell into the dust, Justin Timblerlake covered a strange & beautiful song that the world has already classified as one of the greatest. Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah was perched on my lips for weeks & weeks after. It was the only song I wanted to hear. The only melody I felt like perking my ears for. I loved the brokenness of that little song.
When I told my Mama I was writing about this song today, she spoke slowly, "I've already got 9 pages of research on that song. And I don't know what it means... but it does a really good job of talking about love."
She means this line:
"I've seen your flag on the marble arch / Love is not a victory march / It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah."
It's not a victory march. It's not sealed with a kiss. It's not filtered out through Instagram. It's gritty. It's broken. It needs fixing. And we never get perfect at it. And we don't always get the chance so we might as well just do it to the best of our ability. It costs surrender. And a lot of days it's hard to believe that it truly conquers all.
It's funny to be the girl who easily gets labeled as the one who thinks love letters can fix the world. I don't think that. I never have. And if I thought that brokenness could be mended with twine & stamps then I would have started something else. But never this.
Tragedies like this one remind me why I started this journey. Why I feel stitched to live a life that stands close to the seams of stories that have already broken, and dig out the fragile & cracked Hallelujahs.
And God must have saw me fit for this. My inbox is absolutely unbearable. Not because I've slipped from the graces of organization but because people come to it daily to pour out their hearts and their imperfect love to me. And God must have wanted this. To grant me with an inbox that is bursting at the seams with desperation and a life story that He is tenderly stamping with "Lover. Lover. Lover."
It hurts on days like this. It gets harder to breathe on days like this. It gets more & more obvious that I am just human on days like these.
We are all just humans. & we will never get it perfectly. & we may never understand all of life or love or tragedy. But I think sometimes that love is the only measure of what we know how to do and somehow manage to do it right once in a while.
And even when we can hurt one another. And break one another. And stray. And leave. Love is what makes this whole thing somehow redeemable. It keeps us dancing. It keeps us on our knees. It keeps dirt beneath our fingernails. It keeps us in awe of creation. It keeps us aware that we are not so much in control as we think.
& so we love until we are gone. Until the heart stops pounding. Until we feel less broken. And the sun seeps back into our skin. Until we find the courage to say to one another,
"I might not always treat you like the precious piece of flesh & human that you are, but I am trying. It's hard and I'm trying. And I love you deeper than any kind of yesterday. So forgive me for my brokenness in loving you. But I will only want to love you harder in the morning."