Yesterday, I had to surrender my Kiri cat to the SPCA. It broke my heart because I loved her, and she was fond of me. Sadly, though, I could not give her the home she needed. She needed to get outdoors, which we could not let her do because we live near a highway. She was unhappy being in the house all day. So, because I love her, I had to give her up. I hope she will get a good home.
Giving up Kiri reminded me, once again, that the oft expressed belief that "love is all we need" just isn't true. Sometimes, many times, love isn't enough by itself.
I learned this lesson early when I loved my mom, but I could not keep her from suicide. I could not stop my dad from beating her (and me). I could not get my relatives to listen, let alone believe, what was going on in our house. I got my 7th grade teacher involved, but this was way before domestic abuse hotlines or safe havens, so all it accomplished were fresh beatings from my dad. My mom pleaded with me to stop trying to make things better. So I did. And then she took matters into her own hands when she was 39, and I was 18. I needed more than love to help my mom--I needed people to believe me and help too.
The dating years also provided a major lesson in "love is not enough." I have loved three men in my life--one man did not love me back, and all my love could not make him feel the same way towards me. I was slow to learn this. Another man loved me as much as I loved him, but we were both scared in different ways of the depth of our feelings, so we took turns (how my perhaps unreliable memory of more than forty years ago remembers) sabotaging our romantic relationship. We, or at least I, needed courage in addition to love. Thankfully, we salvaged and nourished a lifetime friendship. He went on to have a great marriage with another woman, and I went on to have a great marriage with Gordon. But I learned from these two experiences that love, by itself, was not enough.
Ah, Gordon, the third time is the charm, if ever there was a time that love should have been enough, our marriage was definitely that time, and we lived many years in bliss. However, as most of you know from my blog, Gordon developed behavioral variant Frontotemporal Dementia, and love is not enough to deal with that disease. You need fortitude to do that, and fortitude is a day by day exercise in doing, in commitment, in stick-to-it-tiveness. And I needed the help of my children because it was more than I could do alone. It broke my heart to realize that even in the most loving of marriages, love is not always enough.
But greater heartbreak, and the starkest realization that love is not enough, came with my middle son's schizophrenia. We parents who love our children more than ourselves will do anything to help them, anything. And I did everything in my power, everything, never giving up until he was 18 years old and legally an adult, when I could do no more unless he wanted me to help, which he did not. For years, I believed that all the unconditional love that I and his brothers and his sister had given him, shown him, and poured into him for eighteen years would heal him, would clear his thinking, would comfort him, but no, love was not enough. We needed a cure, and, so far, there is none. The continual ache of missing my middle son never leaves my heart.
All of the above and more, such as not being allowed to take my grandpa home from the hospital, per his wishes, to die in his own home, have shown me that love by itself is not always enough, despite all the memes, greeting cards, and romantic movies that tell us it is. We often need other, often intangible, things too.
But sometimes, miraculously, love is enough, like when our Jennie dog lived six years after the vet said she would die any day because her heart was severely damaged at birth. Every vet visit, he prepared the children and me for her imminent death, and every time I would tell the vet that our love for her would keep her alive. We loved and cared for Jennie with all our hearts--she was family. When she finally died, exactly the way the vet had predicted six years before, he was stunned she had lived so long. He and his fellow vets and staff (all of whom had seen her over the years) sent us a sympathy card that included a beautiful note about the power of our love for Jennie being instrumental in her living at all let alone six years.
Love is not always enough to fix everything, but love is the best part of ourselves that we have to offer others. So give love, give love, and then give more love we should and must because, while love is not always enough, sometimes love is just enough.