“It is never too late to love.”
That’s what a good friend told me this week.
I was telling her of a kind of break-through: I had learned to love someone a little better, to forgive someone (and pardon myself as well). It felt good, but almost immediately I thought, “I wish I had come to this sooner. My life might have been different . . . .”
Donna shook her head and said this.
Near the end of her life Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who wrote that famous book “On Death and Dying,” wrote a book about the final gifts and lessons of dying (and by this time she herself had had a stroke and was near the end).
Kubler-Ross told the story of a woman in hospice who was just—not nice. She was slightly cantankerous and selfish, she had little grace or humor or kindness at all. Not surprisingly, she had few family or friends who ever came to visit. But as time went by, something began to change within her.
It was the young man who came with her meals, and took such care to make a beautiful place setting as if he were her server in a fine restaurant. It was the woman who came to bathe her, treated her with compassion and touched her with reverence. It was the one who came—without being asked—to massage her feet, who knelt at the end of her bed as if she were serving a queen or some shining deity. And the woman’s heart was broken open. She was being loved by these people who had no obligation to do anything more than their “jobs.” And in return—she could hardly help herself—she felt, almost for the first time, an upsurge of love.
Regret is a powerful emotion that can paralyze. We would rather chew on our failures and savor our mistakes than give them into the loving and merciful heart of God and move on. When we do, we understand dimly that God uses our mistakes and failures to break open our hearts—like the woman in hospice—and teach us how to love.
If there is a way to love that does not go through failure or loss or falling, God does not know it. So we don’t need to waste a lot of precious time pretending that we do, or that we should.
Thank you, Donna: It is never too late to love.