Winning the Lottery of Love


That my wife has offered her kidney to someone without asking me how I felt about it is among the more gratifying experiences of my life.

The potential recipient is her cousin, a woman we both cherish and a Vermont physician whose fan club of patients and colleagues is longer than route 100, road-wise the spine of our lanky state.  Those lovely details aside, most poignant for me is the reminder that I am privileged to participate in a marriage that is the equivalent of winning the lottery of love

Not that we’ve avoided the madness common to many unions.  There was a period of nearly a year when we didn’t live together.  Our unwillingness to be real had led us to the ultimatum of change or die.  Yet, as painful as events were, not once were we acrimonious toward one another.  I consider it no small accomplishment.  We remembered how timeless our bond is despite all other considerations.

For many years I’ve daydreamed about walking across the U.S.  When I asked my beloved her feelings, she quipped, “Follow your heart … and bring a cell phone.”  And that’s pretty much all she has to say on the matter.  Then again, “Follow your heart” is the first thing we say to one another about most things.

Over the past 30 years, my bride and I have exchanged marriage vows on three occasions, each succeeding ceremony more heart-in-the-throat than the last.  And why not?  That’s what happens when you become increasingly aware of the reality you’re leaping into.  No one gets married because they know what marriage is all about.  We get married to find out.  Same with having children, friends, business colleagues, hair dressers, tattoos, pet tarantulas and just about every other commitment we make.

One big reason relationships of all kinds disintegrate is that we mistakenly feel we know what we’re doing when we enter into them.  We deny that we’re all a work in progress, never to stay the same, always new—no matter how many knuckles we turn white trying to make it otherwise.

For most of the past 10 thousand mornings, I’ve woken up next to a woman I adore but who is different from the woman I kissed goodnight.  It took me a while to find this as thrilling as I do today.  Any time I see my wife, whoever she might be, my entire being smiles.

Standing on the sidelines, tossing rose petals of light, are the marriage vows she and I continue to discover the meaning of.  Here’s a sample:

  • Body, mind, and soul we cast into the flame of love, to be purified into cosmic love for all mankind.
  • We will cooperate with each other, that we may harmonize with the laws of truth.
  • We will be loyal to each other, to demonstrate our capacity for divine loyalty.
  • Through our love, we will forgive each other always.
The license plate on my pickup is YESS.  It’s a reminder to myself that being open to any eventuality—meeting it with kindness and pliancy—is the measure of health most useful in my quest to bring all the love I can to here and now.
That my wife didn’t talk to me before offering her kidney to her cousin brings to mind the wonderful remark of Henry David Thoreau: Speech is for the hard of hearing.  My beloved already knew my response.  She’s known it for years, in so many words.
“Follow your heart … and bring cell phone.”

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