Monday, April 20, 2009

Learning The Way Of Love

Perched on my daughter’s finger about a year ago, that’s Jesse. Sarah and I saw past our parental reservations (upkeep, cost, what-if-it-dies, etc.) and gave it to her for Christmas. Our daughter had no idea she was receiving a year-long desire, so she went bananas when she realized it was to be.

Tragically, Jesse died three weeks later. Ellen’s hopes and affections were brutally broken, but that’s nowhere near the end of the story.

The real story is that my daughter loved, and she was beautiful.

Long before she met Jesse, she was preparing to love. She read books about parakeets, poured over articles she found on the web, trial-ballooned owning a parakeet while at dinner (“They’re really good pets and don’t need much care, you know.”) watched and got acquainted with one at a friend’s house, and more. So when we brought it to her at Christmas, her affection found a place to go.

And Ellen was stunning. She read aloud to Jesse for hours and hours, with great inflection and feeling. She made sure we all held him at various times during the day in order to ensure we all got along together. She built a tree perch for him, patiently weaned him off an inferior food and onto a superior one, provided a perfect sleeping environment, and spoke calmly and soothingly to him throughout the day. She even made a web page about him. But all the while she was about Jesse, the story was really about Ellen and what love did for her. Really, my daughter lived in a way she had not before, and she was a beauty to behold.

And then came Jesse’s end.

Aside from the immediate trauma, my daughter’s flowering love suddenly had nowhere to go. We cried and grieved together, and had a funeral for Jesse a few days later. And we thanked God for the best part about Jesse—Ellen loved.

To love was worth it.

I have seen boys and men, girls and women, mourn the loss of a pet, including guppies and goldfish, cats and dogs, horses and ducks, birds and ferrets, rabbits and rats. I knew some of those pets, and sometimes I wondered how the owner could have loved it in the first place. In my view, it was a nasty demand on their life.

Yet in each case the beauty wasn’t in the pet, but in the person loving. And what Paul wrote is proven true again—it’s great to love. Without it we don’t live; we have nothing. (1 Cor 13:2,3; 14:1)

Learning the way of love is tough—Ellen would tell you. Love won’t take you anywhere and there is no place for it to arrive and it won’t make a house payment. But it sure lets a person be beautiful.

And that’s worth it.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Cor 13:13 NIV)


  1. Anonymous4:41 PM

    Ralph, thank you. Setting in motion your daughter's relationship with Jesse's and his inevitable demise was a courageous act on the part of 2 loving parents. We want to protect our children from pain, but as you stated so beautifully, it's better to learn the ways of love. Loving the material always includes loss, leading us to discover the love that is ever present.

  2. Anonymous4:43 PM

    Thanks for sharing, Ralph. Always love reading your thoughts. What a blessing.

  3. Anonymous4:44 PM

    really enjoyed reading this