Love is the Doctrine…

3:42. Once again this morning, my tendency toward rising early went into overdrive. Before the digits on my electronic devices’ clocks read 4:00, I had emptied the dishwasher, put the dishes away, made my first cup of coffee, and situated myself in front of my notebook computer. Here I sit, so many things on my mind that I can barely decide which ones to allow to spill from my fingers onto the keyboard. I have to start somewhere, though, so I’ll begin with by relating a treasured experience.

Yesterday morning, I wrote in my blog about my grief on the one year anniversary of my wife’s death. Later in the morning, after the church service—at which one of my very good friends was announced as the recipient of the Meg Koziar Distinguished Service Award—another of my beautiful friends sought me out and handed me an envelope. In it was a card with a handwritten note that illustrated, in just a few words, extraordinary care and compassion—the kind of love one often reads about but rarely actually feels first hand. She had placed a small slip of paper inside the card, on which she had printed the words from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 I had included in my blog post yesterday morning. Also inside the envelope were two small stones, their rough shapes worn smooth.  I could barely contain my emotions. I tried to coax my eyes to refrain from filling with tears as I hugged her. I forced myself to let her go after just a brief hug, though I could have embraced her for a long, long time. I told her I love her and I meant it. I probably could have kissed her, too, but that might have been more than a little awkward, what with both her husband and my IC close at hand. 😉

Thank you, Penny. I hope you know how very much your love and kindness means to me.

During his sermons, our church’s minister frequently talks about love and admonishes the congregation to live by the expression we so readily share when we talk about the church. “Love is the doctrine of this church.” My experience yesterday was an extraordinarily tangible example of the validity of that assertion. It provided me with physical and emotional evidence that my church feeds my emotional hunger for connection and  If other churches, even those flush with dangerous dogma and deeply engrained bigotry, provide their congregations with the kind of compassion and love I experienced yesterday, I think I understand why people feel so strongly supportive of them. If only their congregations knew they could escape the dogma and bigotry and still find the same compassion and love somewhere else, our church always would be full to the rafters. I was grateful to our minister for mentioning yesterday that it was the anniversary of my wife’s death.


Following yesterday’s church service, two other very good friends participated in a  conversation during which a panel of gay and lesbian and bisexual church members discussed with the congregation their life experiences. I had planned on going home immediately after the church service, but when I learned what was planned for the post-service conversation, I decided to stay. I’m glad I did. The conversations were frank, open, and enlightening. Listening to people talk about their life experiences related to their sexuality and what they have dealt with—and still deal with—was a riveting experience. I wish the whole community…the whole nation, the whole planet…could hear their words. The message was so clear: they are just regular people whose objects of romantic love happen to include people of the same sex; they are no different than the rest of us. I am glad that I long ago learned that to be the truth. I wish everyone else knew it, too. The world would be a happier place. The agony and heartache so many people still feel because of their sexuality would dissolve.


I spent yesterday afternoon with my late wife’s sister. We talked at length about her sister and my wife and how she impacted our lives. The hours we spent together yesterday honored the wonderful woman we lost. Tears, laughter, and a flood of memories filled the rest of the day. Sometime in mid-afternoon, we drank a toast to Janine, her memory, and the deep impact she had on our lives. As painful as yesterday’s anniversary was, our conversation about her and her legacy helped sustain me and lifted me up emotionally. I am so grateful for my sister-in-law; yesterday would have been a much more difficult and gut-wrenching anniversary without her.

My IC graciously left my SIL and me alone to share our memories and our grief. I did not ask for her graciousness; she offered it as a given—she would spend her afternoon at the house we just bought, beginning the process of readying it for us to move it. That is one of the many reasons I find to love her. She sometimes reads my emotions even before I experience them.


Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love

~ John Lennon and Paul McCartney


It’s past 5 now, edging toward 6, and I still have a million things on my mind—what we need to do before moving in to the new house, what to do with the current house before we put it on the market, when to sell it, upcoming medical appointments, my need to hurry up with the process of year-end financial and tax-related issues, my brother’s hospitalization, the results of the Chilean presidential election…the list goes on.

While all those items, and many more, merit my attention, for some reason I am especially intrigued by the Chilean presidential election. Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old “leftist millennial,” was elected with yesterday’s voting. For reasons I’ve never fully understood, I have been fascinated by Chile for several years. I have followed the country’s tendency toward political ping-pong for several years, beginning with Michelle Bachelet’s first election as president in 2006. Bachelet, a strong left-leaning politician, was succeeded after four years in office by Sebastián Piñera, a right-wing politician. She then was elected to another four-year term in 2014, after Sebastián Piñera was elected again for the 2018-2021 term. Boric’s election, reflecting another shift back toward the left, shows how Chileans bounce back and forth in their political leanings. Though I do not have a dog in their fight, I hope Chileans stay with the left-leaning politicians for the foreseeable future. I think politicians of both conservative and progressive stripes are moving toward the middle in Chile, though Boric’s opponent in the election, José Antonio Kast, has a history of defending Chile’s past military dictatorship. Kast has been a strong admirer of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a fan of Trump. The fact that Kast got 44 percent of the vote suggests that fierce divisions exist among Chile’s voting population, a split we know far to well in the U.S.


Okay. Enough. I have neither the energy nor the ability to control my adult ADHD necessary to keep writing. So I’ll stop. Maybe I’ll have an earlier-than-usual breakfast. If not for the freezing fog advisory that cautions drivers to beware of icy patches on the roadways, I might go out and get a fast-food breakfast. Instead, a flavored yoghurt and/or some cereal may have to do.


I know. I make a lot of typos. I tend not to proof my own stuff. It’s one of my numerous flaws.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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