The last 18 months have been the most emotional of my life. My wife Yvonne passed away in February of 2019. So much has happened since she’s been gone. What surprises me more than anything about all that has happened since then is my reaction to all of it. I may have mentioned it before, but since my wife’s passing, everything I see or hear that strikes me as universal truth moves me to tears. It can be in the form of the lyrics in a song or something completely abstract, like a flower blooming in my wife’s garden from a plant that I thought was dead. At first I saw this reaction as an expression of the grief of losing the one I loved more than anything on this Earth for more than 46 years. But after recent events, these emotions have become more and more intense. The scenes and testimonials we’ve all witnessed since COVID-19 and George Floyd’s murder have instilled clarity of understanding of the significance of these events that I know I could have never grasped 18 months ago.
For example, I saw one incident where a large muscular black man walked out of a crowd of protesters and got down on one knee in front of a squadron of heavily armored, police officers marching towards him. It was as though he was offering himself as a living sacrifice in support of his belief in the substance of the protest. Suddenly, out of the crowd there came a frail young white man, maybe half the size of the black man, who stood between the black man and the police, with his arms in the air. It was as though he was saying to the police, “we are all one and the same. What you do to this black man you do to me and to yourselves”. As the scene unfolded, the tears streamed down my face like a white water river.
I’m beginning to understand that through her death, my wife has taught me what love really is. Now I understand that love is not something you get from other people, but something you give to other people. You can only truly experience love by giving it away. That is why the mere witnessing of an act of true love evokes powerful emotion in all of us. By that metric, there is room for much hope in America. There is so much opportunity out here now for Americans to love one another.
I know that in spite of the groundswell of public support for assimilating black people and other minorities of color into the mainstream of American society and culture, there are still many millions of white Americans still holding on to that belief that America belongs only to white people. I’ve been searching my heart to find compassion for those people because I know they are destroying themselves by the very false premise they are defending. I still pray that between now and November they will somehow see the light. Never the less, the rest of us can express our love for each other and our nation by confronting the evils that we all know are out there, like voter suppression against minority voters and misinformation and disinformation regarding the COVID situation. The young people of all races who so valiantly protested for the principle of black lives matter can express their love by being sure to vote themselves as well as volunteer as pole workers and as monitors to safeguard the lines of voters waiting to vote from intimidation by armed ice agents and off duty police officers. Those police officers that believe in Black Lives Matter could do a lot of good by clearly labeling themselves as such and using their authority to counter the voter intimidation by Trump agents. Those agents sent there to intimidate voters can express their love by quietly refusing to carry out that mission. And finally, all of us can support our health by wearing masks and exercising appropriate precautions to the extent possible, given tasks we are engaged in.
I know if Yvonne were here, she would want me to speak out on these issues. That is the only reason I’m willing to share these intimate details about my feelings for her and the grief I have to endure without her. Still, I’m grateful for the gift compassion she has left me with. I only wish I’d understood love as I do now while she was with me. Had I known, I would have used that time to give and express my love for her a lot more than I did. My personal tragedy is that she had to die before I truly realized how much I loved her and she loved me.