Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

This Book I Just Read — September 13, 2021

This Book I Just Read

I just finished I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson. I’m not going to tell you much about it. After all, this isn’t a review. What I will tell you is that I spent much of the last chapter on my knees, reading through red watery eyes. That is, of course, if I could read at all. The rest I spent totally flat face down on my living room carpet leaving discolored circles behind.

I know, I know. But as you are well aware, I am a man who gets down on his knees and weeps from time to time. I cry far more often when things are beautiful than when things are not, and this was no different. It was gorgeous and heartbreaking, joyful and crushing. It was absolutely devastating.

The cover has a quote from the inside, “We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.” Yes, that’s what kind of book it is. It’s a family who has webs and webs of lies and secrets that have kept them sick for years (like lies and secrets do) and come out in an avalanche of meaning all at once (like they do in books). What will each of them do with these? With overwhelming betrayal? With love and longing and loss and everything else? Well, I’m not telling you, but great art pierces because as these characters answer those questions, we are invited to ask the same ones and to answer, what will we?

What will we do?

You’ve been broken by another you trusted, just as I have. We’ve been in love and had our hearts utterly smashed to pieces, we’ve lost (one of the characters says, “No one tells you how gone gone really is, or how long it lasts,” and you feel that in your bones), we’ve missed, we’ve screamed. And now what? What will we do with those?

So then I also just finished another book I was reading at the same time, a very different book, and it has this: “What if it was less important that anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?” And at first that doesn’t make sense (we all really want it fixed), until we think about guilt and shame and the weight of pretending and in that instant, it does.

I don’t think we need tidy, happy endings. We don’t need overproduced songs and engineered foods crafted in a lab. What we do need is flesh, authenticity, tears, blood, laughter, dirt, skin, sweat. We don’t need more lies or secrets or fake plastic images, we need real, pulsing, dynamic, beautiful life. We need grace and love. And we need them right now.

Both Hands — August 24, 2021

Both Hands

There’s a GREAT song by Ani DiFranco called “Both Hands,” and it’s about a relationship that’s over and one last “swan song.” It’s sexy and heartbreaking. (If you’ve never heard it, why don’t you listen to it now? I’ll be here when you get back.) But this is not about that song.

Last week, 2 of my very good friends lost their mothers. The funerals are this week. One was yesterday, one is tomorrow. Another very good friend is loving her own mother without condition as Alzheimer’s ravages her mind, leaving little trace of who she has been. A seemingly endless parade of hurricanes is hammering the east coast of America, floodwaters drowning homes, memories and lives. An earthquake in Haiti killed thousands of people like you & me. COVID numbers continue to rise again, like a villain in a bad movie. We still viciously hate each other online for our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. Yet another very good friend’s dad is in the hospital with a scary affliction I’ve never heard of.

Also last week, good friends married in the mountains of Utah in a ceremony in front of almost no one, just their immediate families, stripping all of the distractions of weddings and receptions leaving only the sacred union of 2 gorgeous souls. Saturday in a small town on the other side of the country, I officiated a wedding between two young sweethearts who reclaimed the institution, reminding us all what this was all intended to be, in front of all of their family and friends. After the Sunday service in church, set squarely in a world that has stolen 18 months of physical contact, we held hands and each other to remember that (in the words of the punk band Rise Against), “let’s take this one day at a time, I’ll hold your hand if you hold mine.”

A life of faith is not, and has never been, ignoring (or pretending to ignore) the complex nature of this human experience. We don’t focus solely on the pain and we don’t turn our eyes from the suffering, either. We show up in honesty and presence and hold it all with both hands. We have funerals and weddings. Birth and death. Joy and pain. Mourning and celebration. We have the passion of sexuality amid the heartache of the breakup.

Our wounds, broken hearts and tears aren’t a sign that things are out of order. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. Everything, all together, is a sign of authenticity and engagement. A sign of life. And we do it all with hands in our own, and then we do it all again. This is exactly what love looks like IRL, in flesh and blood, with both hands, and it’s awesome.

Now. — August 11, 2021

Now.

I write in 2 different places, here and for a faith community called the Bridge. I created this site to talk about music and movies and though it’s usually about spirituality (as some bad country song says, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy), I try to not be so obvious about it. This post I wrote for the Bridge site and it is about a Bible passage or 2, but it’s also about today and Facebook and a woman I saw in the hospital and being fully present each moment of our lives – and that transcends religion or politics or websites. I hope you like it and, more importantly, I hope it matters.

Acts 5 tells a pretty terrifying story. There is a married couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who sold a piece of property.

Well, first, we probably need some context. In Acts 4:32-37: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

We could talk about “one in heart and mind” forever, (doesn’t it sound amazing???), but not today. So, they shared everything and no one needed anything. Joseph the Levite from Cyprus sold a field and brought the money to the apostles to be distributed, this example (probably one of many) stands in stark contrast to what comes next from Ananias and Sapphira.

In Acts 5:2-5a “With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.”

Of course this punishment sounds a bit excessive, but there are some other things here that can be overlooked because of what we might call an overreaction.

He didn’t have to share it at all. It sounds like there was no mandate, no collectors, no stranger-armed enforcers scouring the property transaction section of the newspaper for transgressions. Usually when we lie or hide our behavior, it’s because we feel some sort of way about it. We bring the guilt and shame, it’s an internal consequence of our own conscience. Generosity was something these early believers got to do, a privilege, an honor, an answer to an invitation into a new way of being. It wasn’t a have-to, which is probably why so many did. Giving was the natural outpouring of a grateful heart, instead of an obligation to be fulfilled.

Ananias’ heart wasn’t as much grateful as it was transactional. He “had” to give, the others would see, so he would, but only after he skimmed a little (or a lot) off the top for himself, just in case. That’s all we’ll say about that today. It’s a big ocean to swim in, but a new thing stood out to me this morning.

“When Ananias heard this,” immediately “he fell down and died.” Again, of course it seems pretty shocking that he, and later Sapphira after repeating the same lie, would have their lives taken for what could be seen as a relatively minor offense. But it’s the “immediate” part that is devastating to me, here and now.

You see, sometimes we don’t get tomorrow. Sometimes we don’t get this evening. And in the case of Ananias, sometimes we don’t get one more moment. How much do we put off until another time? How many nights have we gone to bed angry? How many times have we slammed the door to effectively end a screaming match?

I was in a hospital 2 days ago praying with a woman who was/is fighting for her life. She is currently sedated and totally unresponsive. Maybe she won’t wake up. I don’t know her entire story, my friend, her daughter, appears to have a beautiful relationship without too many unresolved issues. That’s a gift that maybe every one in her life shares. And maybe her marriage was terrific, but I do know that the last interaction she and her husband had was less than awesome, marked with sharp comments and harsh tones. They went to bed and maybe she’ll wake up in the hospital. And the truth is that maybe she won’t – it’s the truth for all of us.

I spend a lot of time talking about this moment, today, here, now, fully present, not missing a second of this wonderful gift of our lives that we have been given. And lately I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the many, many ways we are awful to each other, creating thick divisions where none exist and turning each other into monsters in our own minds. How many relationships have been fractured during the last year? How many violent words have been spoken or typed into a keyboard that have wounded loved ones? How much forgiveness and reconciliation has been delayed because of our bitterness and resentment, because of our pride?

Ananias didn’t get a second chance to apologize, repent, or make this right. Maybe we won’t, either.

But we do have right now and maybe right now is a really great time to make a different choice.

I Was There — August 3, 2021

I Was There

Yesterday we watched Cars 3. Everyone loved the first and nobody loved the 2nd. That’s interesting, right? How can the same creative team make a beautifully beloved movie AND an overstuffed misguided mess (albeit with some very nice moments)? They must’ve asked themselves the same question, and as an answer/apology, produced the 3rd installment to give a proper end to this story & these characters. It was really great. Lightning McQueen passes the mantle to newcomer Cruz Ramirez and becomes her coach in much the same way Doc Hudson became his 2 movies earlier.

Baseball season is over, and here’s how it was. Saturday, the all star team I help to coach won the state championship. During the regular season, the team I head coach didn’t win any sort of championship. I have played many years of baseball, 8 years old through college, and coached for many more, and if I was forced to choose, this year (championship and not) was my favorite.

These 2 things are related in presence and presence alone. So many times, we live sometime other than now, somewhere other than here. I remember my dad, who had so much trouble making the transition into new here’s and now’s, always remembering & mourning what had been, when he was, what he should’ve been. He’s certainly not alone, right?

It’s the unholy mosh pit of regret (past) and worry (future) stomping violently on today. These cartoons – or I guess we should call them animated features, that sounds fancy and pretentious – use colors and fantasy (cherry red cars that talk and have more expressive eyes than most people) to illustrate and invite us into authentic emotions we might otherwise be too distracted to notice. They ask us questions we might otherwise avoid. McQueen is angry and grasping to the good old days and doesn’t know how to move forward gracefully until he does, and then he learns, as Doc did, that there was shockingly more joy, purpose and fulfillment involved in leading another to victory (in life and on the racetrack… and the field;). He learned to leave his past glory where it is and allow tomorrow to breathe up ahead while he pulled his parking brake on now, an anchor to the significance of this moment.

I maybe didn’t do much to lead those 15&16 year-olds to the crown (I’ll leave that for them to decide), but what I do know is that I was allowed to watch these young men from the dugout, as close as you can get to excellence. I was allowed to coach with a brother, who continually surprised me with his smooth, easy, absolute greatness. And I was there. Not thinking about how I wish it was me playing and winning, nostalgic for my own ‘glory days,’ or if we’ll go back next year. I can’t imagine a place I would have rather been. I love those boys, am so grateful I was allowed to tag along to their march to 1st place.

I get so many things wrong, make so many mistakes, see the overwhelming gifts and blessings in the rear view mirror rather than as they are holding me in life and love. I say too many things like, “next year” or “when I was…”

But not this year, sister. You know what I can say about this year, the most important thing I can say about this year? That I was there and it was spectacular.

This Is Not A Lament — July 27, 2021

This Is Not A Lament

This Saturday, the county all star baseball team my son plays on will compete for a state championship.

I just wrote a post for the Bridge site about the aggressive passivity that is running rampant, crushing everything (including our spirits) in it’s path. The post is a lament. Marianne Williamson says, “Our playing small does not serve the world,” yet that’s what we have decided to do. We’ve chosen to lower the bar, setting it on the ground so that we never try, never fail, and consequently, never succeed and never grow.

This post, however, is not a lament.

Last week, I watched as a group of 15 & 16 year-olds gave pursue excellence. (The day before, I had the privilege of sitting with a player who had been given news that he would not play, that he was an alternate, a victim of roster limits, as he wept in disappointment. That kind of holy disappointment only happens after we’ve given everything.) 15 & 16 year-olds have a reputation, perhaps deserved, of apathy and indifference. But not on this team.

This team was full of boys who had trouble sleeping the night before, whose bellies were full of giant butterflies. This team was full of “try hards.” (“Try hard” is, inexplicably, a term of derision in schools nowadays among insecure, inadequate kids overwhelmed by their own fear.) This team was full of passion and energy, driven by, and full of, life and love.

It goes without saying that I’m proud of them. What might not be so obvious is how deeply I am inspired by them. Do you remember that movie, As Good As It Gets? Jack Nicholson says to Helen Hunt, “you make me want to be a better man.”

I am an assistant coach for these young men on this team. I throw batting practice and hit balls infield/outfield. I give high-fives. Every now and then, I try to give helpful suggestions learned from years and years of being a ball player.

A coach is in an interesting, enviable position. I am more thankful than I can tell you that I am allowed to watch from the inside. They remind me how I want to show up to my own life, every day, for ‘practice’ and for games. They don’t take days (or even plays) off, they pour into themselves and each other. They are committed. They are deeply respectful – of absolutely everything. They are gifted and grateful. They give without reservation. They bring all of them and they show up. I used a million words, but the only one that truly describes what they do is worship.

This is not a lament. This is a celebration. If they are the future, we can all breathe easily and with tremendous hope.

Man, I want them to win this championship, they really deserve it. But I guess it doesn’t really matter, they’ve already won. And so have we.

Black Widow — July 14, 2021

Black Widow

Last weekend I saw Black Widow…in the theater!! I wonder how many times I’ll have to go before that loses it’s excitement and new-ness. I know the answer is more than 2 (I saw Godzilla vs Kong in March), because I had butterflies like the Angel & I were on an early date night. It wasn’t a first date, because those butterflies were large birds with talons and teeth, and lots and lots of energy. More like a date in the 3rd or 4th month, when the nerves were invigorating and pleasant.

When I was a kid, a trip to the movie theater used to be an adventure we looked forward to for days. That novelty wore off (except for BIG releases like Fight Club or Endgame) and it was just another option in an ocean of choices. I’m thrilled that feeling has returned.

I’ll tell you if the answer is 3 in September when Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings comes out.

You know, I used to go to quite a lot of live music shows. Once I got to a certain age they lost most of their draw – too many people, too loud, too expensive…well, I guess it was simply too many “too’s” for me. I wonder if I’d like to go back now.

COVID took so much from us for the past year and a half, I wonder if we’ll be surprised to find there are gifts to be enjoyed as well. Sometimes things are so familiar, so common they lose the wonder they hold, like kissing your wife, hugging your boy, driving your boys to basketball practice, sitting in air conditioning on a scorching hot day, pushups, deadlifts, spaghetti, fast dancing to music in the house with your sister, singing along to a song on the radio, those shoes, and on and on and on. When the scales fall, giving us the ability to see them again with new eyes, it’s overwhelming. Of all the people in the world, do you mean I’m the one who gets to actually kiss her??? Has the world really become a place where I can sit and watch these boys play baseball??

I recognize that lives have been lost, anxiety has ravaged our psyches, relationships have been damaged beyond the point of rescue, some of us still have trouble breathing, much less sleeping, the fear of What Could Never Happen (But Did) is oppressive, and going to a movie theater is way too trivial a thing on which to focus, even embarrassingly so. But sometimes it’s the trivial and seemingly insignificant that give us hope. That give us the strength to take one more step. That give us the beautiful notion that the world will continue and we might be ok, sometime down the road in the future, however long it takes.

We had a flood once that drowned our house and everything we owned. Our spirits were crushed under the weight of starting over from scratch, not to mention the looming fight we were inexplicably destined to lose with the insurance company, and the enduring emotional fallout. And in the middle of all of this, my wife’s best friend Laura gave me a book – one of my favorites: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – that I had gifted to her years before. It was her way of saying “I know it’s the kind of dark and awful that feels like it might never not be dark and awful, but this is something lovely.” It was just a book, but it was so much more than a book. It was the promise of life wrapped in her sweet heart. That horrible flood ended up having a million gifts like that, where human beings were exposed as kind, caring, and generous. Most people don’t get to experience that sort of avalanche of love, and I wish they could. It was a book about a record store, and it changed me forever.

It might have been the best movie I ever saw or it might be ok. I can’t give it a proper review because it’s impossible to detach the art from the context, and I don’t want to try. To me it was perfect.

The DMV — June 25, 2021

The DMV

RIGHT NOW, my son is at the DMV in line waiting to take his learner’s permit written test. This is not possible. He was just born yesterday. I remember pulling my work truck onto the shoulder to deal with the reality of the words I had just heard: “I’m pregnant.” Or rather, “Positive,” because we had decided to wait until I returned home from work but I simply could not and begged her to take the test with me on the phone.

This was a pretty poor choice, as it turns out. I would have loved to hold her tightly while we cried on the floor of the bathroom like in the commercials. But the way it happened I remember like it’s seared into my mind and that’s cool to remember something so significant so clearly, so I guess it wasn’t that poor of a decision. And I did get to hold her and cry soon enough in celebration and joy and gratitude.

Anyway, that was last night and now he’s 16 and as big and strong as I am and is hopefully about to get enough questions right to pass his test.

It’s moments like this that allow us to focus on where we are and from where we’ve come. Sometimes we miss it, you know? We wake up and wonder what happened, how did we get this old and how in the world is he driving?!!!!???

There’s a familiar story in the Bible about Moses and a burning bush. Now, bushes burn all the time but what was interesting about this one was that it wasn’t being consumed, like every single other thing that burns. I wonder how many walked right on by, head down getting to the next meeting or thinking about yesterday or tomorrow, distracted by anything, what my hair looks like, if I’m too fat, what they thought of me, if my shirt was the right color, whatever. And the bush burns and the invitation goes unnoticed.

My dad died 16 years ago (the same year the prospective driver was born) very suddenly. I wished for 1 more day, 1 more conversation, 1 more chance to make everything right. Then the story about that bush was no longer was a story about thousands of years ago, it was a story about me and my dad and God trying to get my attention to here and now, instead of then, there, should have, and what if.

That was the greatest lesson my dad taught me, and if you like me even a little, that’s probably what you like most. I wrote earlier that the Angel was pregnant ‘last night,’ but that’s not true. It was almost 17 wonderful years of laughter, church services, tears, angry fights, wrestling on the floor, board games, movies, dentist appointments, basketball games, Impractical Jokers episodes, hugs (sooo many hugs), kisses, fevers, doctor appointments, and countless ice cream cones ago and I’m sure I’ve missed a few moments but for the most part, the point my dad unknowingly made stuck me like a knife in the hardest parts of my heart, changing me forever. Now those parts are super soft and squishy and keep me fully present. What I can tell you is that I’ve loved him with my whole heart and all of my being for every day of his life.

Which has now become a life that has PASSED A DRIVERS TEST!!!!!!

Kong — April 8, 2021

Kong

Last weekend I saw the movie Godzilla vs Kong.

First thing to know about me, while you might think it’s just the kind of movie I’d like, it’s not. There are roughly 2,500 movies in existence with King Kong and/or Godzilla in the title, I haven’t liked one. This wasn’t an exception. My sons loved it, so I said I did, too. I want them to like mostly everything, to not become one of those insufferable snobs who thinks it’s cool to hate. I used to be that guy. I’d tell them (and anyone else who would listen to me self-righteously pontificate) about dialogue and plot holes and blah blah blah and they’d feel silly for loving it and who wins in that? No one. I don’t believe in “guilty pleasures,” either. We can like anything we like and there’s absolutely no guilt in that. Unless it’s that song “Watermelon Sugar,” by that boy that I think used to be in One Direction. Anything else, have fun, man. Life is heavy a lot of the time, if monsters pro wrestling each other is your deal, this is your movie, enjoy!!!

That’s my review of the movie itself, but I’m writing this to tell you how much I LOVED going to the theater to see Godzilla vs Kong. I was overjoyed to buy tickets and popcorn and sit in a mostly empty deafening theater with other actual flesh-and-blood human beings having an experience together.

COVID stole a lot of things from us, and to take them back inch by inch is wonderfully satisfying. Our friends have been on screens and telephones, hugs are virtual, smiles have been obscured by masks. Theaters have been closed. There has been so much loss in these past 13 months, a monster movie in the theater is hardly the most important, but sometimes it’s the little things we might consider trivial at another time that perfectly capture the pain or the hope in any situation.

One time a flood destroyed my home and all of my things and that was horrible, but it was months later when I had a wedding to attend and realized I didn’t have dress socks that broke me into a million pieces. I wept loudly, bitterly in my truck along the highway. Dress socks were hardly the most valuable thing we lost, but as symbols go, it was priceless.

Godzilla and Kong ushered in a new mindset for me, for us, that pointed to a reality outside of quarantines and pandemics. It illuminated a hope that we would be together again, that we would connect, that we would hold each other’s hands in our own, that we would be human again.

And as far as experiences go, I can’t imagine one better than Godzilla vs Kong.

How To — March 23, 2021

How To

Several years ago, I was working full-time delivering medical equipment, pastoring a new local church, a full-time husband & daddy, and working far more than full-time discovering and becoming who I was/am. Even though I loved all of it, individually, I was teetering on the precipice of a complete breakdown nearly every moment of every day. The illustration that makes sense is of trying to fit a gallon of water into a shot glass.

Eventually, I scaled back the medical delivery to part-time (while still juggling the unholy on call responsibilities, which years later, cause me to shudder. No kidding. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the nightmare of thinking my phone is ringing.) which helped a little, though not as much as was necessary. My life was still a gallon and I was still a shot glass.

Many of my friends have greater capacities than mine, like a tumbler or a Big Gulp. The Angel does, too. Maybe you do. I’ve stopped feeling guilty about this. We all are created differently, different gifts, talents, passions, and different capacities.

It’s entirely probable that my capacity was reduced by the sheer number of should’s inside, like ice cubes filling a glass before one drop of liquid could find room. Wildly important should’s like responsibilities in providing for this family, safety, security, and on and on…then stepping outside, less important should’s like ‘what will people think?!??’ When you devote so much energy and space to the negative loops of b.s. in your head, it leaves very little for elements like purpose, meaning, and life. I needed a push, either out of the boat or back into the cabin, straddling both was tearing me apart.

Then the book How To Be Here, written by Rob Bell, was released. How To Be Here was about quitting your job delivering medical equipment and taking your shot at all of those things that make you feel alive. Among other things, of course.

“Your Ikigai is your reason for being. If you’re like a lot of people, the moment the words path and vocation and calling come into the conversation, let alone a new word like Ikigai, a thousand questions come to mind. Questions about paychecks and responsibility and passion and what you wish you could do if only you didn’t have those bills to pay.”

Maybe the book wasn’t about medical equipment delivery at all, but as I picked it up to reread it today, it sure sounds like it. Books can be like anything, tied to a certain time or event. Like how if you’re a certain age, it’s impossible to hear “Stairway To Heaven” without thinking of school dances full of butterflies and self-consciousness. This book is a very good friend who walked into my life when I was in desperate need like a hurricane, gently rested both hands on my back, whispered in my ear that I could, and then shoved me into a brand new life.

Hardly anything has been easy in the transition, but it has been awesome and I just wanted to thank Rob Bell and my very good friend How To Be Here.

In Working Order — February 1, 2021

In Working Order

Throughout the months of COVID isolation, like so many others, we have been swimming in screens. We binge watched the entire The Office and fell hopelessly in love with Jim and Pam. All 23 MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies, even The Incredible Hulk, which almost nobody watches. Now, we’re moving slowly through the Star Wars saga, including the extras like Solo and The Mandalorian. Our commitment to wholeness required us to suffer through the prequels, disappointing then and only marginally less so now. I do love the new ones, especially The Last Jedi. It’s actually my favorite of the films.

As you know, I’m reading, too. I read another Fredrik Backman novella called “And Every Day The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.” This tiny gem is set inside the head of a man who is suffering from dementia, and losing his memories. Every day the way home to himself and his memories gets longer and longer. Obviously, it’s heartbreaking, but it’s the sort of ache that we need to have form time to time to keep our hearts soft and in working order.

I shouldn’t have read it, not now. You see, there is an unreasonable amount of death and suffering in the circles around me. I could write forever about any of them, but this is the one I will. A man lost his wife, a lovely woman, to cancer a few days ago.

I took him some bread and a card yesterday morning, half hoping he wouldn’t answer the door. (I know that sounds awful, but you know just what I mean.) He didn’t so I left it at the door and left. As I drove away, he passed me in his car. There are certain moments in your life where you see who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming. Usually these transformations happen so slowly we don’t notice. But sometimes we are able to see clearly. I wanted to keep driving. He didn’t see me, I could’ve let my card and bread be enough. I wanted to keep driving even as I was making a u-turn in the street to chase him.

He pulled into his driveway and I followed. We hugged each other, he talked, and when I could stand it no more, we both cried in the front yard.

Some things hit you harder than others. I think I know why this one leveled me the way it did. It was that it was his wife. In the book, he speaks to his deceased wife in his fading mind. And as I sat in that sadness, tears soaking my cheeks, I realized that every love story is our love story. Every lovely wife is my lovely wife. Art is of course about it’s creator but it’s also about everyone else.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader matter because fathers and sons matter, specifically, your father, your son, my dad, my son. My dad wasn’t an evil oppressor of galaxies, but we did have issues where I might have wanted him to be something other than what he was, I might have wanted him to see me as who I was, rather than trying to make me into what he wanted, or seduce me to the dark side of the force. As these things tell us a new story, they’re also reading the story of us to us in language we can understand.

My friend and his wife weren’t art, they were real life and real death. But what’s the difference, really? We’re all telling stories with our lives, finding connections in the dark, noticing hidden relationships, and it is in discovering the things that tie us together that real life truly becomes artwork.