‘Tis better to have loved…

“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his poem In Memoriam A.H.H, spoke from the heart about the loss of his friend and the grief he felt.

On Boxing Day, we had a car accident in a surprise snowfall. My husband lost control, despite driving at a sensible speed for the inclement weather, and the car skidded. As we danced a graceful pirouette, a full 360 degrees across to the opposite side of the country lane, time seemed to elongate. I watched in horror, completely powerless; thoughts of dread that my son or daughter might be injured or killed filled my mind. “It’s all right…Hold on everyone!” I said aimlessly. I braced myself against the seat as the car returned to the correct side of the road and landed with a gentle bump against a fence post. When we stopped, the relief that everyone had escaped without harm was immense. Walking the three miles home through freezing sleet, feet slopping and slipping on the wet snow, I felt protective of my two children and husband. I led the way, torch in hand, fussing about our insufficient coats and footwear. I needed to regain some sense of control. It felt as if I had nearly lost everything that mattered to me, everything that I loved, and that shook me far more than the accident.

When I was a child, I had a recurring nightmare. I stood watching as my parents and brother descended an escalator straight into a sheet of plate glass. Every time I had this dream, I would awake crying and shaking, believing that it had happened. I was alone; I had lost everything. Since having my children, I regularly experience anxious dreams. A multitude of horrible images where they have been maimed or killed in all number of horrific incidents. When they were babies, I would imagine falling down the stairs with them in my arms. These nightmares leave me feeling drained and afraid. There is nothing I can do. I have opened myself up to this vulnerability; I have no control over what may (or may not) happen to my children. I love them and this involves the risk of getting hurt.

A few days ago, my lovely old dog had a funny turn. My husband and I returned home from searching for a replacement car and he ran excitedly to greet us, then collapsed trembling and letting out a long stream of urine over the carpet.  As we bent down to help him, he looked up at us with confused, frightened eyes and we both burst into tears. We thought it was the end for him. He is nearly sixteen; his weak heart makes him pant continuously and he stands on shaky legs, often falling over. Miraculously, it was not the end and he recovered, carrying on much the same as before. I realize this cannot continue forever, of course. Every day, week, month spent with him is a bonus.  Soon, we will have to face the heartache of losing him. We made the decision to get a dog; to let him become part of our family. We allowed ourselves to love him and must suffer the pain that is to come.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why choose to have partners and children and bring pets into our homes? Why do we allow ourselves to love when we know it will mean pain and loss at some point? Would it be better to protect ourselves from this pain; to avoid love?

Quite simply, to love is to live. Life is about having relationships with others; to make connections. I have had many moments of fun and laughter with my dog. My children have enriched my life and made it more worthwhile. If we do not allow ourselves to love through the fear of being hurt, then we do not truly live our lives. Having relationships and loving others helps us to grow and learn. It gives us meaning and purpose. There will be times when it brings us pain and loss, but living a life alone and afraid would be unbearable. Life is difficult, we must share it with others – family, friends, neighbours, pets.

I have found somebody who explains it more eloquently than I am able:

“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.
Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”    Henri J M Nouwen

22 thoughts on “‘Tis better to have loved…

  1. Glad everyone is okay after the accident! I still have those dreams about loved ones getting hurt or lost. Mostly about my grandson now. I’d much rather live a life full of color and meaning and love than a dull, grey, “safe”, protected life!
    Awesome post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think you said it all eloquently too. I’m glad that none of you were hurt in the accident and that your lovely old dog recovered too. What a gorgeous photo of him. Thank you for reminding me to cherish my family and pets.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I related to this post so much. I remember when I was nursing my daughter, and after I’d take her back to her crib, I was unable – simply unable – to put my arms down at my sides. I still held them in place as if I was holding the baby. I was afraid to let go, afraid that in the middle of the night, perhaps I was dreaming, and perhaps the baby was still in my arms, so I better never ever release my arms. She’s 35 now and my best friend. I’ve had to let her go to the crib alone, and to pre-school and kindergarten, to college, to Europe for a year. I had to let her go to a new job in a new state, to the man she decided to marry. I had to let her go through pregnancy and childbirth and raising three wild and wonderful little ones. So many times, I’ve wanted to just keep my arms in the ‘holding an infant’ position, but no, they’re by my side as I try to not let her know my anxiety for her safety and happiness.
    I’m so glad YOU all area safe after the car accident. And that your sweet dog is still with you, but getting ready for his next journey. Our Henry, the ‘doggy love of our lives” died three years ago, and we haven’t gotten another dog because we miss him so much. Your post is nudging me to bring another pet into our household.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your response. I’m coming to terms with the letting go now, with my daughter travelling Europe and the US, then starting at university and my son at college. It’s tough! I would definitely get another pet – a home isn’t the same without one. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well written and expressed. And all that fear of loss despite us living in a world as safe as it’s ever been (despite the desperate events brought to our screens daily). Do you think it’s primarily a female trait ER to seek unconditional love in the sure knowledge of the sorrow which may/will follow? (Personally I think I have sidestepped true love and its consequences, for better or worse.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a beautiful post. There are some truths that can only be described in heart-felt terms. Thanks for sharing your recent scares with us and the feelings they evoked. Several months after my mother died, I wrote in my journal this insight: “We hurt when we lose someone we love. The greater the love, the deeper the hurt. But given a choice, who wouldn’t choose love? And who wouldn’t choose great love, even knowing that to do so is to risk great pain?”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. this is perfect. i completely relate to it. i am always imagining the worst-case-scenario and imagining that my children will be safe if i think of all the bad things that could happen.
    and then gathering more & more beings around me–more and more creatures to worry about.
    i have gotten up in the middle of the night more than once to go out to our pasture because i have convinced myself that the goats are in trouble.
    i’m amazed i’ve made it this far!

    Liked by 1 person

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