In this strange existence, in a world where people are trying to live as best they can and pursue happiness in countless ways, sometimes our—my—obsession with politics yields to a different kind of reality.
Chris Price, a man you never heard of, lived in Wales.
He met a girl named Ceri when both were teenagers. Nothing significant came of their meeting until January of 2012, when both were older, he in his mid-twenties and she almost thirty. They moved in together. Then Chris found out he had esophageal cancer three months later. Because the cancer had spread, doctors operated and removed a portion of his stomach. All was good until a year later. The cancer had spread further into his liver and lungs. No cure available.
Not wanting to waste a moment, Chris proposed to Ceri, who had four kids, including a set of triplets. “He loved me and took me on with four children as if they were his own,” Ceri said. “They loved him so much too.” She explained:
It was as if Chris wanted to spend his last days making me as happy as he could. We did such a lot in those last six months. He was so positive he never talked about dying, he just wanted to see me and the children happy in the time he had left.
Chris took Ceri and her four children to Disneyland Paris. A couple of weeks later the couple went to New York to see the sights and to shop. He bought her fancy boots and a high-dollar handbag she had wanted. He planned to take her to Las Vegas for her birthday.
Except, as Emily Dickinson told us, because Chris could not stop for death, death kindly stopped for him. Before the trip to Las Vegas with the love of his life. “His illness made him live completely in the moment and he taught me to do the same,” Ceri told us. “My heart is broken losing him and I still spray his Aramis aftershave and wear his clothes to feel close to him. He died in my arms and I felt his last breath.”
Last breath. The fate of us all.
The grieving woman, speaking of the compressed moments of happiness they had together, and expressing the mournful reality of this fragile and fleeting existence we, we the living, all share, said in stunning simplicity:
If my love could have saved him, he would have lived forever.
Some of us hope that a force, we may call it love or something else, will have the last word over death. As we think about this profound mystery, as we wish for something that will conquer all our fears of drawing our last earthly breath, let us hope against hope that the words of the philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich are true:
Death is given power over everything finite, especially in our period of history. But death is given no power over love. Love is stronger. It creates something new out of the destruction caused by death; it bears everything and overcomes everything. It is at work where the power of death is strongest, in war and persecution and homelessness and hunger and physical death itself. It is omnipresent and here and there, in the smallest and most hidden ways as in the greatest and most visible ones, it rescues life from death. It rescues each of us, for love is stronger than death.