“What did I ever do to deserve this?” my dying brother asked. The “this” was not the heart disease which had been stalking him for a decade and a half, the killer which would take him within the next four hours. The “this” was the unconditional love and devotion of his wife of 30 years. My reply was, “Nothing. You did absolutely nothing to deserve such love and devotion. It is a gift Kathy chooses to give to you. You now have and always have had only two choices: to accept the gift or to reject it.”
And so began our last conversation together, the last conversation between an older brother and his only sister. A conversation that had started the same way any number of times before. Always the same question. Always the same answer. The same question because Boom (his nickname since infancy) felt himself unworthy and thought there must be something he was supposed to do to earn that love, something that perhaps everybody else knew that he had somehow missed. The same answer because I believe it to be the absolute truth of love.
Genuine, sacred, selfless love is a gift that we can choose to give. It is not a gift without cost, but it is a gift beyond price. The life-giving, life-affirming love of another cannot be earned because it is given before the recipient can know it. It is given without regard to where it may lead. It is bestowed as naturally as the infusing of the world with light.
We have only two choices: to accept love and attempt to live our lives as our love response to that which has loved us into being, or we can reject that love and live whatever life that yields.
The last quarter of my brother’s life in startling contrast to the first forty-five years was his glorious, life-giving, life-enhancing choice to accept love and live each day as the most positive response possible to love. His answer spilled over into a renaissance of love for his wife, reconciliation with me, and inspiration for the medical personnel who both treated him and learned from him.
I shall be forever grateful that my beloved, big brother Boom provided the living and dying proof–we do not earn love, but when we accept the gift, we magnify it.
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