I finished the novel on Sunday afternoon.
It was good.
It is over 48 hours later and I am still thinking about it.
I didn’t see the plot twist coming until it hit me as I wiped the tears from my cheeks. The author did his job. I am an “all in” reader and I was invested in these characters. I am sure my husband would’ve read between the lines, realized what the true conflict was, and predicted the ending – but I did not.
Relating to the author’s description of the couple’s romance and love, I was rooting for their separation to result in reconciliation and the book to end in that “happily ever after.” However, that author, that really good author, had other ideas . . .
What novel is this you ask? I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who may pick it up – or for whomever might find it on Netflix or at the local Redbox when they watch the movie version. So, I will not share the title, but it has really made me think and feel and pray . . .
As a result, I need to write to process these thoughts and feelings and prayers.
The main character spends a great deal of the book “flashing back” in correspondence to his wife. Their relationship from the start was rare and epic, a kind of fantasy, fairy-tale, what every girl grows up longing for. Through his messages to her, I liked her and found myself rooting for her, for him and for them – the identity of the two of them together.
In the last two chapters, the main character reveals that his wife had died nearly four years before the action of the book even began. For four years he was still just as in love and as dedicated to her has he had ever been. For these four years he had existed by simply putting one foot in front of the other and doing whatever the day in front of him required. As he did so, he continued to buy her flowers, spend time by her side and share his life with her as much as he could.
There were things left unsaid when she had died. He had regret and carried shame. He felt responsible and longed for forgiveness he felt he didn’t deserve.
In the middle of this inner turmoil the reader doesn’t realize he is in, he meets someone new. Actually, they are thrown together in an impossible, life-and-death situation. They face insurmountable odds and bond through their hardships. He tells her of his wife and when he does, he speaks of her in the present tense – as if she is waiting at home for his return. This new woman in his life trusts that he is married and is envious of this amazing love he shares with his wife. In all ways he stays true to his wife and still sees himself very much married to her.
In the end, he shares with this new woman the truth about the circumstances that made him a widower. In the end, he is able to love both of them . . . his love for his first love never faded but made him able to love this new lady, but in a different, equally amazing way. In the end, the new woman doesn’t take the place of the dead wife but in respect to her, is able to help him heal.
As I think about these fictional people, I am well aware that they are very much just that – fictional. There was a lot about the story that could be considered contrived or too coincidental to be true – However, these three individuals were incredibly relatable to me, but I didn’t realize why until this morning.
My sister-in-law and I have been messaging over Facebook – you know on the “private” Messenger part. I had seen a video posted and thought of her. Not wanting to publicly “tag” her in it, I sent it through Messenger. She responded with a couple of links to articles that reverberated the same ideas. As I read them, I realized that the novel I have just finished is in many ways her life.
She was not involved in a life-and-death battle for her physical ability to breath, but she has been through the trauma of trying to will her heart to keep beating after the sudden death of my brother-in-law, her daughter’s daddy, the love of her life, her husband – James.
In complete honesty, she has communicated to me that she has not and will never “move on.” James is still very much a part of her everyday and, because of the love he had for her and she still has for him – this will always be her reality. She will always be his widow.
This is true but not in spite of her new husband. It isn’t at his expense. He knows he will never replace James and has not tried to do so. Actually, he is pretty remarkable. Somehow he knows that she is able to love him the way she does because of her continued devotion to James. He has lost a wife too and together they can keep their memories of their spouses very much still alive.
Some people may not get that. They may criticize her or him or them, but if that is the case, then I wonder what exactly those judges actually understand about love and loss and life.
Through James’ life, the life of my grandmother, the life of my mother-in-law and others, I have received and given love. My understanding of love has grown even in and through their deaths. They have not, nor will they ever be replaced. However, in their absence I am able to give and receive love from others and from God, Himself.
He understands my hurt and my pain. He loves me in and through it all.
His grace has allowed me to put one foot in front of the other and has exponentially grown my my faith through my losses. His resurrection is my hope and His Word promises that what is yet to be is better than what has been. I may not understand that, but I know it’s true.
This morning my devotion was about how the pain of this life pales in comparison to the eternal glory that is to come. Paul, when he wrote these words, was not belittling the pain of this life, but rather encouraging the believer with the truth that what comes next is richer, is far better and for them to strive to have an eternal perspective on today’s hurt.
The love that follows loss of life is so multifaceted and rich. Honestly, I believe it is God-sized and God-given. It shows us more of Him and His character and His love for us. It enables us to love others deeper and live with greater appreciation for His good gifts.
The novel I finished Sunday was not a “Christian” fiction book. I thought I was reading a suspenseful survival story. Yet, God spoke to me loud and clear about how He defines love – It is bigger than the love of a spouse. It is greater than the limits that we put on it. It is honestly deeper than our comprehension.
And this is how He feels toward us . . .