In the opening scene of the movie, And so it Goes, Oren Little, (Michael Douglas) is laying flowers on his wife’s grave. He had been her nurse and carer throughout her long illness and his way of coping with her death and his devastating loss has been to shut down emotionally, to close off his heart so he won’t ever have to hurt again.
CS Lewis got it right when he said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable”.
And that’s just what had happened to Oren, hardened and angry at the world, his heart had become impenetrable, and he’d forgotten how to love. He’d put up walls that shut people out. It took a 10 year-old child, a granddaughter her didn’t even know he had, to break through his locked away heart and teach him how to love again.
It’s also the hardest and most exacting task I will ever undertake. Honest, consistent, wise, deliberate love will require every ounce of energy, courage and determination I have … to constantly decide, “What does love look like in this situation?”
And sometimes love doesn’t look or feel loving at all, sometimes it’s tough love for the good of another. I distinctly remember grounding one of my children so they missed a long awaited camp. I remember going to bed that night and crying myself to sleep, it felt so cruel and yet I knew it was love; just love they would never understand.
The Greek seems to capture so much more of the breadth and capacity of love with five words, Philia, or deep friendship, Agape, selfless love, Pragma, making compromises to help the relationship work over time, showing patience and tolerance, Eros, sexual passion and Ludus, playful love. It involves every aspect of my life ... nothing is exempt.
Love is a calling. A calling higher than any other calling I may believe I have. It’s the measure by which my life will be judged. I can lock away my heart to avoid being hurt or choose love and vulnerability with all the associated risks and inevitable pain.
The rest of the movie follows the inevitable boy meets girl storyline. Oren’s neighbour, Leah (Diane Keaton), is a widow, but her way of coping with grief was to refuse to let go of her husband. Grief never ended. It was always just under the surface and spilled out continually with the mention of his name or the words of a song they’d shared. It was a coping mechanism that had crippled her too, until the love of that little 10 year-old girl allowed her to love again.
Grief and love, two inescapable realities in each of our lives. Each with its own lessons. Each with the power to change us at our core if we are open to its wisdom.