Is it really better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
Little did I know, in August 2009, that the man who insisted on holding my arm instead of my hand would soon hold me through some of the best years of my life. As a friend, boyfriend, fiancé, and then husband, Eric Lindberg showed me great depths of love and closeness that I had not expected even existed.
We weren’t a perfect couple. In fact, we weren’t really even compatible according to the tests and types. Eric had plenty of flaws, quirks, irrationalities, and struggles just as I did. In our relationship we faced many difficult days and rough patches. We argued passionately and we were able to hurt each other more than anyone else could–and we did. Yet, the love we began to have for each other continued to grow until it was an unstoppable force. It was like something that sticks harder the more you try to pry it apart. And it was also like a passionate tango between two awkward people… just ask one of my siblings. By the time we were married, Eric had become everything on earth to me and he loved and cared for me well. He was kind, generous, and faithful. He encouraged me, he laughed at my attempts at humor, he supported me and helped me to get back on track when I fell or failed. He showed me grace, lifted me up and pointed me toward Jesus. Our marriage was not complete bliss, or even mostly bliss, but it was deep and precious.
Eric’s sudden passing in 2016 nearly crushed me. On that day my heart was ripped open – I felt the most acute pain I had ever experienced. All at once I lost my beloved, my best friend, my co-parent, my spiritual leader and the one person in the whole world who could make me feel beautiful. The agony of that moment, of the reality of his death, was exactly as difficult as my love for him was deep.
At that time and even right now I wonder, was it worth it? Was it truly better to have passionately loved Eric and to have felt the tearing anguish of his absence than to never have loved him at all? Most of the time my answer to those questions is a resounding “YES.” Other times, when breathing becomes like rocket science and surviving is the only reachable goal… I wonder if love is worth the pain of loss.
During the time since Eric passed, I’ve been learning something entirely unexpected about the “better” to which Alfred Lord Tennyson might have been referring when he said “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
When Eric stood next to me, I turned to him in everything. When I had a hard day, he was only a look or a text away. When I felt like an incapable mother or an inefficient wife or a bad friend, he was there. When I was unsure of my work, Eric encouraged me to keep going. When I was afraid because of a world event, or a noise, or a terrible dream, Eric’s arms wrapped around me in a safe embrace. But on the day that the unthinkable happened, I could not run to Eric.
On the morning of Valentine’s Day 2016, I woke to the crashing reality that Eric was not and would never be next to me. The weight of my limbs and the sickness of grief paralyzed me into the mattress. In desperation, I called out to God. “God, I can’t. I cannot get up from this bed. I am physically unable to move even a finger unless you take over my body and move it. I need you to be my strength today because I have nothing left.” The miracle of that morning did not come in the form of a risen husband returning to his wife and kids. Instead, my kids’ mother got up from that bed and stood on her feet in God’s strength and kept on living.
Had I never loved Eric deeply, I may not have felt the void that I did when he was no longer with me. If the one to whom I held the tightest had not been ripped from my grasp, I may not have felt a need that would lead me to ask for God to fill it to the extent that I did. If I had not called out to God to be my strength, I might never have felt him do it. When I could no longer find comfort in Eric, I turned to Jesus. He caught me and held me and began to teach me a closeness with Him that I had never imagined existed. Even my sweetest memories of Eric fall short of the abundant love I have in Jesus. When I collapse into my bed after a long day or when the loneliness creeps into my bones like an inescapable coldness… when I am unsure of the next step, when I am uncertain of my future, I turn to Jesus. I lost the one my heart loves, but I will never lose access to my Savior who hears, holds and answers me.
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