Four hundred years ago, the English poet John Donne wrote the line “No man is an island.” It means that we are all interconnected, and that we are not complete just as ourselves.
But there’s a problem with relationships. The people you care for grow old, and die. The people you love can get sick and go through pain, and there’s little you can do to relieve them of their pain except comfort them. People you love can disappoint you by things they do or things they believe, or how they treat yet other people. The people you care for can go off the deep end.
Long ago, I was hurt by a love affair falling apart. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, just some major personal misunderstandings that destroyed the relationship. I resolved not to get involved with anyone again, and drowned my sorrows in alcohol and books. I learned a lot and got drunk a lot. And I also learned that I need people. I need to talk to people, I need friends, I need family, I need to listen to people and I learned that I needed to link my life to other lives. I discovered I was no island.
Over the years, I have had wonderful friends and loving family. Over the years some have died too young, and others lived long and happily. There are pieces of my heart in a few different places, including the 200 year-old family graveyard in rural Virginia mountains. But it’s not like the heart has a finite number of pieces to lose.
I’ve been lucky. I have lost no friends to suicide. None of my friends was killed in a war. None has been murdered or attacked, although some of my friends have had loved ones kill themselves or be murdered. I grieved for them. That’s one of the things about the human heart, it’s not just your own life that’s involved, it’s friends and family’s triumphs and losses and fears and joys. You feel pleased when good things happen to a friend, and you feel sad when a friend experiences a loss or tells of a bitter past.
And when I experienced loss, like my parents dying too young, it was friends who helped me get through it. That, and the knowledge they lived good lives, lived well and loved well.
Now, as I write this, the woman I love is in the hospital in a coma. She’s thousands of miles away and there is nothing I can do for her now except pray. Once again, the heart is a hostage. A friend says he thinks and hopes she will recover. I have done my best to ease the pain in her heart from her past.
I think she will be well again. But thinking about my life without her scares the hell out of me. I really don’t need the worry and the stress. And yet what she has brought to my life is amazing, so you can see why I’m scared and yet grateful, somehow. So, the worry and the stress is just part of being able to love. And before I met her, I doubted I’d ever be able to love again.
None of us is an island. And the heart is hostage, sometimes. That just means being human.
Postscript. She is out of the hospital and doing fine.
Deep knowledge, every day.
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