We all know the passage from 1 Corinthians 13 well. It's on posters and in movies and if you've been to as many weddings as I have, you'll know it off by heart.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.When I'm not sobbing in a church pew at the sight of a friend in a beautiful white dress, the times when I seriously ponder this passage of scripture leave me more exhausted than energized to go out and start living this way.
At some point in my teen years when I thought I was deep and profound, I started saying things like "I don't know what this kind of love looks like! Pastors keep preaching about it but there's no real-life example of how to live this way!" Etc.
But I was an idiot.
I don't know why, but one of the distinct memories I have surrounding my maternal grandmother's death was the thought that she would reveal which one of her six children were her favourite. At the time it didn't strike me as a strange or particularly malicious thought, but rather an inevitable reality.
I knew my grandmother Emma, my namesake, well. She moved into our basement apartment when I was five and lived there for fourteen years, until she died. My sister and I spent a lot of time with her after school and on weekends, but to be honest, I can't remember many details about these casual moments.
But I do remember other things about her vividly. Like how she rarely spoke ill of anyone. My grandmother had been hurt by many people in her life, but I truly don't think she kept record of these wrongs. My grandmother was exceedingly patient; this annoyed me when playing Scrabble, and this saved us from many fights when I was an angsty teen. I remember how she was unbelievably kind to everyone she met, regardless of their relationship to her. I've never known someone to be more generous with their money and their time. I truly don't remember her ever being angry.
My favourite memory of my grandmother is Christmas morning, 2006. She had been taking chemo and all the other drugs that come along with cancer for months, and she was weak, tired, irritable, and small. But on Christmas morning, she had this exuberance about her, an energy that had been absent from her life for months. While I lay grumpily on the couch in her apartment, irritated that we had cinnamon buns for breakfast, she came bounding over to me, planted a kiss on my cheek and said "Merry, merry Christmas!" with the passion and happiness of someone who truly knew the joy of the birth of Jesus. She was rejoicing in the truth.
It wasn't until years after she died that I realized why my grandmother was unable to reveal her favourite family member, or why she forgave so quickly and trusted so readily. It was because she lived Love.
In the years since her death, there have been lots of moments that I've wished I could revisit. I wish I had had more patience. I wish I had recognized her wisdom and asked her more questions. I wish I could have known her as an adult.
And while I may still have difficulty, I shall never again say that I don't know what loving people is supposed to look like, because Emma Thompson showed me everyday what life looks like when you truly believe that love never fails.