Splattered across CNN, ABC, MSNBC, BBC, you know, all of the news sites to which I am addicted, have been photographs of Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords. Tragedy has befallen them (invaded? overwhelmed? destroyed? – all words I have seen associated with their current situation). But I look at those photographs, from previous public appearances, from their wedding, and I think, my God, how blessed they are. I note how Ms. Giffords’ love shines through so vividly in each photo. She is looking at her husband with a love that radiates through the pixels and wires onto my screen and into my heart. It resonates through the catastrophe and pain of their present.
Now, those of you who know me well know I’m not a particularly religious person. I see myself as Spiritual – I have issues with organized religion. But that’s another essay. I rarely view ‘blessings’ as gifts from an abstract God-Being in a far away place. Mark Kelly has so obviously experienced unconditional love – you can see it in his wife’s expression in every photo. Unconditional love is divine. It comes from a place beyond human explanation. It’s ineffable. Such love will carry them through this, buoy them up; allow them to tap that strength that we all fear doesn’t live within.
Had I seen those photos before January 8th, my first thought would have been, oh God, I hope he doesn’t break her heart. But equally touching are the photos of Captain Kelly’s pain. Most striking, and I know you’ve all seen it, is the picture of him holding her hand. He is beyond exhausted, beyond tears or sorrow, beyond any namable emotion. I see in the tension of his jaw line that he knows he exists because she does – he knows the blessing bestowed. And that blessing, that divinity, is returned in the simple act of holding her hand. And it touches all of us.
I have watched and read about the memorials, the shows of love, devotion, support… And I worry. I have had tragedy, long-term medical crises in my life. I know how the story goes… Willing friends, well-intended neighbors offer to help, to support, to always be there. But in the long nights alone sitting by a hospital bed, it is the memory of that glow of unconditional love radiating through the eyes of the person whose hand you now hold that gets you through. Time creates distance for everyone else; they get caught up in their own lives, their own tragedies, their own loves and losses.
And but for that memory, the blessing of unconditional love, we are alone. We cling to the first moment we held a baby, vowed eternity to a partner – saw the acknowledgement of love in their eyes and knew we were blessed. Knew, beyond any doubt, that we would never be able to put into words what we were feeling, but knew that for the rest of our days through anger and pain we would see that look and return it in equal measure.
We are divine gifts to each other and in the moments that we see and feel that, we are blessed. In the moments that we carry ourselves through profound tragedy on the wings of those blessings we touch the divinity within. We set our jaws and against all odds we find the courage to face another day of unknown sorrow or joy and we become the blessing that others need.