And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. — Kahlil Gibran
Every now and then I stop by a coffee shop to pick up a shot of caffeine to help me through the rest of a long evening. Sometimes, I have a half hour to spare when I sit and sip and “bask” in my own thoughts. On that particular day, the place was full and the room was noisy. The café tables were all occupied. With permission granted, I shared the end of a table with two young men, friends to each other, but strangers to me. The one young man had a hope-drenched look about him, almost awash in vast expectations and easy optimism. He was letting his friend know of his plans to propose to the young girl of his dreams. The other was telling him how best to go about doing it. He asked if the ring was ready. “Yeah,” replied the hopeful. “Cost me a bundle. She wanted this big one.” I couldn’t help but look at it. Dang, I thought, that’s some rock. I wondered, would she say “yes” based on the size of the gem or on the depth of promises made.
I recalled what I had said years ago to the man whose love I shared. “I don’t want gemstones or gold. I want… a kind soul. I want to fall asleep, hand in hand and wake, knowing my heart is safe. I want to love.” To which he had said, “Give me your hand, and take my heart, and be my second self, my best companion on earth.”
I had given him my hand. “But beauty fades, and time roughens every hand,” I had said. “These soft hands, tender now, will one day be wrinkled. Will you still take my hands in yours? Will you, in years to come, when passion dims, allow my hands to creep to yours?” I had asked.
“I may not always be this handsome either,” he had said with quick and witty dancing eyes that had made me laugh. “I may not always be brave and bold and strong, or smart and wise and clever. I am not perfect. I am human, and I do make mistakes. But I know that you are what makes a weak man brave in good times and in bad times, in easy times and in tough times.”
“Can you make laughter a part of my daily life?” I had asked. “Because not all my dreams may come true, nor all my goals achieved. Life may throw many disappointments our way.”
“When you are hurting, I will build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and beautiful.” He had paused to look at me. “I may need reminding, but I will laugh with you because your happiness is essential to my own.”
“Can you love me without pride because there is no self-seeking in the way I love? There is no I or you. My heart is vulnerable.” I recalled having whispered those words.
“I love you simply,” he had said in an almost similar whisper. “I love you this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this.” He went on to quote as best as he could remember from the Bible. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.”
“But will you know how to replenish love at its source?” I had asked. “What if the breathlessness of love and the excitement of promises of my eternal passion succumb to the years and fall victim of age? What then?”
“Our roots will be so entwined over time that only love will be left when being in love has burned away with age. We will heal each other, feed to strengthen the best in our characters and starve to stunt our weaknesses.”
“In many ways we are different,” I had reminded him.
“But we share the same values,” he had rushed to interject. “You are my moral likeness, you are my equal.”
He had hijacked my heart. I knew then and there with a certainty that I would want him by my side to begin and end my days with a prayer and a kiss.
I jotted a page of these recollections and handed it to the young men still working on their proposal. “Here,” I said, “try this. If it speaks to you, use it. If it speaks to her, then give her the ring.”