Love, Undefeated

By the time you read this, you will see a completed blog post. What you didn’t see were all the drafts I deleted, trying to find the right words, only to realize that the right words don’t exist.

Although the Red Sox won the World Series Sunday night, which brought me a profound sense of joy and elation, on the whole it has been a difficult last few days.

What happened in Pittsburgh on Saturday has affected me deeply. Not that the other recent tragedies we have faced as a nation are less disturbing or sad, it’s just that this one struck close to home. Although I am not Jewish, the pain I feel for their community is significant and raw.

To think that such carnage could take place at a house of worship has shaken me to the core. Those who attended the Tree of Life synagogue last Saturday were there out of a devotion to one another, and above all, to God. We may be of different faiths but I can appreciate the sense of meaning and purpose they derived from their spiritual lives.

As a Catholic, I love my faith very deeply. It sustained me through the most difficult time in my life several years ago, serving as a life preserver when I felt myself drowning in frustration and sorrow. Although I am home-bound and find it difficult to make it to church as often as I’d like, watching the mass on Sunday on my computer is the highlight of my week. To worship with a community of believers, even over the internet, fills me with gratitude.

The town I grew up in – West Hartford, Connecticut – has a significant Jewish population. Some of my best friends from my time in West Hartford are Jewish, as are several of my best friends from adulthood. My heart aches for them.

Although this is the point in the post where I must inevitably address the anger and hate that exist in our society and where, on a different day, I might be tempted to start pointing fingers, today I just can’t. I am too tired of negative emotions occupying precious real estate in my mind. In this dark hour of hate, all I want to know and think about is love.

It is worth the effort.

I know this because I have seen the power of love at work in my life. In addition to my faith sustaining me on a spiritual level, my friends and family have sustained me with their love, comforting me when I’ve felt down and allowing me to see a future for myself after I can no longer move my limbs. Their love has shown me that there is so much more to life than mobility, that no matter how difficult life gets, it is always worth living.

Hate and anger may be powerful forces. Fear and sadness may seem overwhelming. But love is greater than all of them.

There is no question – love takes work. It is easy to feel angry and hateful, easy to stereotype and point fingers. It takes effort to retrain your mind to see the beauty in each and every person, even those who, for whatever reason, might hate you back. It can be exhausting to love this way, even when the news cycle is so outrageous and infuriating that you throw your hands in the air and say, “Enough!” I struggle with this every day.

The world is not a loving place in aggregate, but on a person-to-person level, if you look hard enough, you will find loving individuals. Even in an article about a mass shooting.

Cecil Rosenthal lost his life at the Tree of Life synagogue Saturday along with his brother David and nine others. As the names were released late Saturday afternoon, I stumbled upon an article about the Rosenthal brothers. Cecil, 59 and David, 54, who were born with developmental challenges and who lived together, were active members at Tree of Life and from all accounts, two of the most loving people you could encounter.

As I read the touching tribute to their lives, I could feel the tears begin to well in my eyes. Towards the end of the article, reading the concluding story, they came flowing out:

At one of Best Buddies’ annual Red vs. Blue basketball games, where Duquesne’s men’s basketball team pairs with the university’s Best Buddies program, Cecil wanted to coach. He showed up in a suit and carried around a basketball and a rolled-up piece of paper, perhaps with a secret play, on it, Bertocchi said. Cecil cheered for both teams throughout. When Bertocchi said that, as a coach, he should really cheer for only one team, Cecil refused.

‘They’re all my friends,’ Bertocchi remembered Cecil saying.

In one of the most difficult articles I have ever read, I realized, at that moment, Cecil had given us a gift: an enduring example of the kind of unconditional love that can never be defeated. The kind that will save us from a world drowning in hate.

A life preserver.

Love like Cecil.

6 thoughts on “Love, Undefeated

  1. Thank you Chris,
    This entry is a sensitive caring message in many ways. Over the few years reading your posts you have matured and grown right before us.

    * You acknowledge your own faith life. My wife wonders could it be that one day we might be threatened or assaulted in our church at Mass. Looking to a higher power requires a certain amount of humility to reckon on something bigger than ourselves.
    * You expressed sympathy for others’ pain.
    * Seeing beyond our own trials is a huge selfless step.
    * “Love takes work.” True love asks for giving or making a sacrifice, not just pleasure seeking or satisfy ones own needs, maybe not even the other’s needs, but the needs of the relationship.

    I am grateful that I know you through these postings.

  2. This was really beautiful. And much needed. I, too, am Catholic, and even though I’m not able to get to mass on Sundays anymore, my faith helped and continues to help me through everything. It’s also gifted me a community of people I’ve grown up with who remain connected to me through not just prayer, but also physically reaching out to help. The first thing I said to my mom when I heard about this shooting was, “can you imagine someone opening fire at our church just because we’re Catholic?” It’s heart wrenching. The news cycle is so exhausting, so thank you for this reminder of what’s important.

  3. Steve Woznicki

    Thank you Chris, for the reminder that God can bring good even out of horrendous tragedy. I was having difficulty seeing that but your commentary helped.

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