Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Death of "My" Love

Bear with the melodrama, and recall that though I'm not romantic by nature, I did study theater and hence enjoy analyzing and scripting out random situations.

"Jesus said to them, "The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise." Luke. 20:34-36

The other day, I was doing something mindless, like changing a diaper or washing dishes or any of the myriad other mundane but necessary tasks that consume my time, when I was struck by mortality. Particularly, mine. One day I will die, and that day could be tomorrow. Now it could be that if I died tomorrow, Darwin (after a suitable period of grieving) might meet and marry some forbearing lady who doesn't mind taking on five children. He and I have been married for almost ten years, but we're relatively young; if he married someone else they could be married two, three, four times as long as he and I have been. So, we all meet up one day in heaven; how does that work out? "Hi, hon, here's the new one. I know you and I shared something special, but she and I were married for forty years, and had a few more children, and were really in love. I know you'll like each other!" This woman may not even exist, and already I hate her.

This is stupid, I grant you, and I apologize in advance to Darwin's second wife (the bitch).

Brandon at Siris has a good post about the stupidity of many romantic conventions. And one of those conventions is the idea that lovers are soul mates who will belong to one another for all time. It's a comforting convention. I like the idea that the strong bond Darwin and I have now will persist into eternity. It's distressing to think that this rich personal relationship we have on earth won't last forever in its intimate exclusivity. The fact that my reaction approaches devastation at the idea that he won't be mine after death leads me to wonder if I'm making an idol out of my husband.

The only paradigm on earth for meeting someone married to your spouse is the ex-wife dynamic, which evokes other regions than the celestial realm. But there is no marriage in heaven. Darwin's soul doesn't belong to me, nor mine to him. Since in heaven our love will be perfected, we will love everyone perfectly and fully, though on earth we can only love one or two people in a way that approaches the divine charity. We can only be married because are imperfect, because we die. I hope Darwin and I lead each other toward heaven, but he can't get me there himself, nor can he take me with him.

Marriage is defined as being unitive and procreative, and in light of that I'm intrigued by Matt. 10:37-38: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me." No mention of husbands or wives -- perhaps they're the "cross" to be borne? Do parental relationships last into eternal life while marital relationships end? I guess that makes sense. Marriage is bound up with mortality: "our" love may endure beyond time, but it won't be "ours" anymore, since it won't be exclusive. A love that binds one to only one other soul is of this earth, and has to stay here. By contrast, a parental love can expand to include as many souls as necessary, which in heaven will be every soul. Only the procreative part of love will last through eternity.

I don't know if I fully understand it. I don't know if I like it, just this moment. But I accept it, and I hope I won't have to come to terms with it for a long time.


Calah said...

This very subject troubles me as well. There have been times that I've thought, "If I don't get to love the Ogre in heaven, what's the point of going there?" How bad is that!

But seriously, I'm assuming there must be some fundamental change of spirit that occurs after death. The Ogre likes to say that it isn't that my love for him will cease, but that in comparison to my love for God, it will be like a candle held against the sun. And who would look at a candle when they have the light of the sun?

I know what he's trying to say, but that analogy actually doesn't work too well for me either because I prefer candlelight. I'm banking on the assumption that I'll be made much better after death because right now I cling to that marital love pretty I think we're supposed to in this life.

Mrs. Zummo said...

I tend to contemplate the flip side of this issue. Do I really want to go to heaven if "that guy" (not my husband) is there? And if I do, do I have to see him and love him, etc.? i do have some relationships that require genuine forgiveness on my part for serious slights. In a way, I feel it's easier to address these more glaring spiritual issues, because the emotions are so strong. Luckily I really only have one or two people in my life that fit this description.

But there is a much larger group of folks that are just annoying, boring, or totally lacking in a sense of humor. I think I can "love" them in some distant "I love all humanity" sort of way, but do I really have to hang with them for all eternity? I doubt heaven has cliques. Maybe my purgatory will be learning to like all these folks in heaven. 100 years of listening to my mother-in-law complain, or smiling through unending discussions of college football.

BettyDuffy said...

If it's any consolation, there's no way Mrs. D #2 could hold candle to your wit (the bitch--I don't like her either).

Anonymous said...

As I understand the Theology of the Body (TOTB), our human love, even marital love, is only a shadow of God's Real Love, the love of the Trinity - totally giving, totally receiving, holding nothing back, never-ending...

So when we die, if we go to heaven, we enter into this Real Love, and we'll see the human love we experienced as the shadow of the reality. We won't want the shadow any more. We'll still love our spouses, but with God's Real Love. In fact, we'll love everyone there with Real Love!

Unless I got it wrong....

mrsdarwin said...

Betty, I asked Darwin if that line was perhaps a bit much, and he said I might want to consider altering it to read "skanky bitch".

Foxfier said...

*reads 9:42 comment and laughs*

It is kind of sad and scary to think of-- I'm sure there are some gnostic kinda stories that make a big deal about it, too.
(I have a weakness for ghost-comes-back love stories, too. Nothing is quite as sure to make me tear up as someone looking down at their love on earth and wishing them happy.)

That said, my understanding is along the lines of what Anon said-- the bond you have with Darwin, and I have with Elf, is so amazing here because it's as close as we can get to what heaven is like.

The whatever that makes it so we can love them is a vague gesture in the purification, fixing, mending, perfecting, I'm not sure how to say it that happens if you get to heaven, so you can love everyone.

mrsdarwin said...

The thing is, I think if (in stories, of course) you have someone coming back to commune with his spouse, you can assume that person isn't in heaven. If you were in the presence of God, why would you leave? The problems of this life must look very different from the other side.

Also, in heaven no one discusses college football.

Foxfier said...

They never seem to make heaven anything but fluffy clouds, robes, wings and harps, with some gold accent. (See also: all angels are little toddlers with wings on the pet peeve list.)

mrsdarwin said...

Angels may be depicted as toddlers, but toddlers definitely are not angels.

Foxfier said...


Daddio said...

I know remarriage is permitted but my vow stated "...for all the days of my life." Not all the days of her life. Just can't imagine remarrying, for a variety of emotional and practical reasons. But I know I'm just a man. I'm sure if things happened... I'd probably work out my issues and be happy to have companionship again. But I honestly believe I would not go actively searching for it on or some such thing. It would have to hit me right between the eyes.

Daddio said...

Having said all that, I'm not bothered by the idea of her remarrying. Maybe I'm just cocky, feeling pretty sure she'd never find someone as good as me... Ha! Half serious. Maybe it's a man vs woman thing. She's so good at making me feel like the perfect man for her that I'm not even worried about the competition.

DMinor said...

Mrs. D.,

Thanks for the great post - it struck the right chord with me. I look upon spousal love as a small window on divine love. While I won't ever know, in this life, exactly how that divine love plays out, from the small example I'm given, I know it will be good for all concerned.

The Sojourner said...

Personally, I like the C. S. Lewis take on the afterlife, wherein nothing good is ever definitively lost.

I have no idea what that would look like with marriage, but I don't think it will necessarily require ceasing to love anyone but God, or being "forced" to love everyone equally. Not that I won't love everyone when I'm in Heaven, but that part of nothing good being definitively lost will be at least the shared memory of having been married, having participated in a sacrament which led (I would hope) to the betterment of our souls and the procreation of other souls for Heaven. If that's heretical somebody please let me know; I naturally submit any theological speculation on my part to the judgment of the Church.

Mrs. Zummo--I have one of "those guys" too, though he wasn't mine; he behaved horribly to a very dear friend of mine. One of the first steps in forgiving him was thinking of what I said above, that nothing good is definitively lost, and telling another member of our little circle that maybe a little corner of Heaven will be the four of us as we were in the tiny fleeting period when we were together and friends and happy. Perhaps. Lest you think I am a paragon of virtue, while I can think about meeting him in Heaven I pray that I never ever see him again on earth because until I'm a saint I don't think I could speak charitably to him.

Amber said...

For whatever reason, this isn't something I particularly struggle with. Although the thought of our almost 10 year marriage someday being dwarfed by a much longer one and perhaps considered a "marriage of my youth" sounds very strange.

My thoughts, when I consider my death and things along those lines tend to stick more with the kids. As a convert married to a non-Catholic/marginal-Christian (with extended families in those same camps), I have to wonder what would happen to them... and if my husband did remarry, he would most likely not marry a Catholic nor a practicing Christian, and what would that be like for the kids? Sure, he's promised to try to raise them Catholic, and it isn't that I doubt his word, but I'm enough of a realist to wonder how exactly that would work. I trust that God will provide, but I'm not exactly sure I trust that the people in the situation will respond in a way that will let the kids be raised as they are now. We're reading the story of Blessed Kateri right now and that provides some consolation as well.

Ah, the joys of being a convert, #432.

Clara said...

There are a lot of things a about heaven that weird me out, quite frankly.
But then I remember that my mind and heart cannot grasp the reality or bliss of heaven. The capacity just isn't there.
So I focus on what makes me happy now--the love of a husband, or a fire with friends--and imagine heaven that way. Even if it's not true that eternity I'll be with my husband, I think it's ok to imagine it that way--because married love is the best vision of enduring happiness my poor little mind can work with. When the time comes that I have to exchange the image for the reality, I won't mind, because it will be nothing like I could have imagined while on earth.

Did that make sense?

SL said...

I feel the way Amber does. I've never been bothered by the thought that my husband might remarry if I died. I mean, I’m *dead.* I’m presumably enjoying the beatific vision. Why would I care?

I also find it kind of strange when people say they would never remarry if their spouse died. How would you know that? I have no idea if I would remarry if my husband died. It would depend on whether I met someone else who I wanted to marry. I would imagine that I would not want to date again for a long time, but once I got over grieving I would certainly be open to it, and I’d certainly be open to Catholic dating sites, since it seems very hard to meet good Catholics any other way.

But like Amber, the thing I’m worried about is the kids. My husband was a practicing Catholic when we married, but at this point he is really struggling with his faith and he only goes to church because of me. If I died and he remarried, it would probably be to a non-Catholic or a lukewarm Catholic. So I’d be worried about what sort of influence that would have on the kids. But I guess none of this stuff if worth worrying about, since it’s pretty unlikely.

mrsdarwin said...

Having considered it coolly, I don't really mind if Darwin marries again after I die, nor am I opposed to getting remarried myself -- though I think his odds are better than mine, because he he's more likely to attract a spouse since he makes money, whereas good luck for a stay-at-home widow with five kids! And I don't think the life insurance would be so much as to lure in the gold diggers.

There's no point in planning for it, because although someone might feel called to marriage as a vocation, in the abstract, practically it's a moot point without a particular person to marry. I guess you could troll the singles boards -- which is a creepy concept, and I wouldn't do it myself, but I do know some nice people who met that way.

What I do know is that no matter which of us dies first, the other will only do what's best, spiritually and practically, for the children, whether that's remarrying or staying single. It's consoling to know that we're united in that goal.

Baron Korf said...

While eternal life in the Divine will be perfect bliss and love, I do not think it will be a homogeneous thing. I may well love each individual fully, but I will love them each differently since each individual has their own part in the Body of Christ. Therefore I believe that I will love my wife for who she really is and that would include our life together and our descendent's between now and the eschaton.

Brandon said...

In line with what Baron Korf suggested, it might be worth pointing out that the unitive end of marriage derives from marriage being a particular kind of friendship. Ordinary friendship is another kind, charity is another, but all these friendships have a unitive end of some kind. Marriage's distinctive feature as friendship is that it is procreative in its basic character, which is where it gets its primary end (and why mutual help, which is really extraordinarily important to it, is always called a 'secondary' end -- it's not that it's always less important, since often it will be more, but because it derives from the fact that marriage is a friendship, and only gets all of its specifically conjugal features from combination with the procreative end). And that will go away, and thus anything distinctively conjugal. But, of course, that doesn't mean that the friendship, what marriage gets from its genus, will go away. And as Baron Korf says, just because we will all be friends in heaven doesn't mean we will all be friends in the same way. It doesn't even mean that we will all equally be friends, since friendship is not exclusive or (in pure form) jealous: my being friends with A doesn't preclude my being best friends with B.

To put it simply, it could well be that marriage is just the first stage of Best Friends Forever in the only true sense.

mrsdarwin said...

Baron, that's a very comforting thought. Thanks.

Brandon, I like your distinction of the different types of friendships, and your explanation is very clear, as always. I suppose since I know on earth that I have more than one deep friendship, and that I share those friends with others whose friendship is equally deep, that these friendships provide a model of how, in heaven, you could have a harmonious and loving friendship with someone who had been married to your spouse.

It's a weird concept, and I'm growing weary of pondering it, but it won't leave me alone until I've settled it a bit in my head.