“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu
It was just a solitary, broken umbrella. To the casual observer it meant nothing. It was refuse, trash, and needed to be discarded before the next home game. It had outlived its usefulness and could no longer serve its purpose. Soon, it would end up yet another anonymous object at the bottom of a landfill somewhere, decaying for a million years in the land of unwanted things.
Yet it stood there proudly, its bright red color contrasting greatly against the stadium’s somber grey concrete benches. It had been a couple of weeks since the team’s last home football game, and another was coming up in a few days. The maintenance crew was busy at work, getting the field ready and the stands prepared for the warm bodies that would give life to this otherwise cold landscape. Everyone there could see the red umbrella, but no one really noticed it. That is what happens when something becomes old and broken. The protector becomes garbage. The needed becomes discarded. To many who worked that field on this day that umbrella would become a harbinger of things to come. They, too, would become discarded when no longer loved, needed, or wanted. They, too, would be anonymous. Their bright color would fade into the grayness, and they would be forgotten.
This umbrella had, however, given a gift in its state of disrepair. It had been protecting a man and woman, lovers, as they sat and talked under the steady rain a few days earlier. They had been having trouble in their relationship, both feeling as if they had become broken and forgotten to the other. They both desperately wanted to work it out, to fix what had been broken, but neither would give up their anger. As the conversation became a debate and the debate became an argument, both began to lose sight of their truth. Soon, the innuendo became threats and it seemed like all would be lost on that cold, wet October day.
Suddenly, a gust of wind blew and the once strong umbrella bent in the middle. It’s bright red covering folded backwards, and its arms gave way to the pressure. Both became soaked instantly, but the man and woman stopped their argument as the rain became a torrent. They began to curse the umbrella and the rain, running for shelter in one of the open doorways that led into the bowels of the stadium.
Once reaching drier climes, the stopped to get their bearings and to regain their senses. As they wiped raindrops from their faces they looked at each other. The eyes, those gateway to the soul, met and suddenly the world stopped around them. Something clicked. She suddenly was that beautiful woman he fell in love with, and he was that caring man she loved. Their hands moved in unison as he moved the hair from her eyes, and she wiped some raindrops from his forehead. Their words stopped, their anger was gone and all that was left was the indescribable force that had brought them together. The resistance subsided, and they stood, man and woman, lovers again.
“A lot of good this umbrella was,” the man said, looking at the broken thing in his hand.
“You know, it’s been a long time since we’ve danced in the rain,” came her reply.
They looked at each other and smiled.
“Yeah, it’s been too long. Let’s go,” the man said. He grabbed her hand and the ran out onto the concrete heading towards the field. On the way, the man dropped the umbrella along the benches where it would stay until it was picked up by the maintenance crew a few days later.
The sounds of laughter and rain echoed within the walls of the empty stadium as the lovers danced and played in the rain. After a while their bodies would become cold and they would embrace to get warm. They both remembered how nicely their bodies fit together, her head on his chest, his arms around her, his hand holding her head tightly to that spot where his heart beat. It felt so good to remember how right this was. It felt so good to feel how perfect everything would be when they just leaned on one another.
He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. She, looked up at him, and they kissed like they hadn’t in quite some time. They held each other in this lover’s pose, remembering all along what made their world work. This, they remembered, was the Truth.
“Baby, take me home. I need you,” the woman whispered.
He took her hand again and they began to run to the stadium’s exit leaving their umbrella behind. In a moment that umbrella had given way, and the two would become one yet again. As the rain washed away their pain they remembered their love. Neither would recall what they were arguing about, and neither cared. Instead, they focused on the love they had rediscovered and the warmth they had given to one another on even the coldest of days. A gust of wind and a broken umbrella had provided a miracle of sorts, and one that would not be forgotten for the rest of their lives.
Even in breaking there is purpose, and even in getting wet there is hope. No one would know how important that umbrella was. It was picked up and put in the dumpster with the garbage but it had served an enormous purpose. Lovers who would find their eternal purpose that day owed it all to something they would never know and never remember. As their days became years and their years became decades it all made sense, and the man and woman never forgot to dance in the rain. And they never bought another umbrella.
He laid there, the immense pain in his chest beginning to numb under the realization that he was dying. Just moments before he was alive, enjoying the morning with his beloved, laughing about the memories they had created the night before. Now, he was sprawled out on the living room floor fighting for air, and wanting so desperately to talk.
She was there, above him, her hands holding his face as they had a thousand times before. The worry in her eyes was clear as she begged him not to leave her. “I love you baby, please stay with me. We never have to be apart again, I promise. Stay with me, I love you so much. Please…please.”
He wanted to talk, but the words just would not come out. He wanted to remind her that he loved her too. He wanted to bring her back to the many moments they shared. As her blue eyes cried the rains of hell onto him, he wanted to bring her back to Heaven, the place that they shared when their bodies meshed and their minds fell into each other. He wanted so badly to comfort her as she tried to comfort him by touching him, kissing him, and reminding him that yes, he was all she ever needed. All he could do, however, was lay there. As the tears streamed down from the corner of his eyes he could only stare at her and beg whatever gods there were that this would not be the end.
His desperate struggle for air began to settle as his mind drifted back to the first time he saw her. It was a picture, and her eyes had enveloped his senses and drew his attention. He couldn’t explain the feeling, he only could utter something to himself that he would say to her a short time later: “beautiful”. She stole his attention to the point that despite loving the mountains he did not notice them behind her. All he could do was look at her face, those eyes and that smile. He felt he knew her once, although he couldn’t say when. He also felt he needed to know her again, although he couldn’t say why. So, he sent a simple message, and then came her reply.
He could remember the reply, the poetic way she stated her emotions of the moment. He could feel her presence despite never meeting her. In a brave and courageous moment this man had sent that woman a message and she had replied. He knew then that something was happening within him.
A sudden shift brought him back to his reality. “I’m going to get the phone to call 9-1-1. Baby, please hold on!”
“NO!” he wanted to scream. “Please stay here with me. I need you baby, hold my hand. Kiss me. I don’t have much time left. I have so much I need to say to you.”
She was gone, and although only a few feet it seemed like a million miles had separated them. They had begun their relationship hundreds of miles apart, and although they had settled into a routine he could remember the pain of being separated from her. So many days had to be spent missing her and wishing she was there with him. In the early days he had often doubted that this woman could love him. He had often doubted that she could stay true to him. He often caved to the frantic fear of his mind created long before he ever met her. Even at its worst when they ended for a short time, she came back to him proving that he mattered, and that he had value to someone. She loved him, he could see it in her eyes and feel it in her touch, and now as he heard it in her voice as she frantically begged the dispatcher to get there as fast as he could. As she screamed at the phone, he only wanted her voice to become sweet again like it was when she said “I love you” or “come to bed baby”.
“Please sweetheart, let me hear you sing” his mind whispered as his mouth remained silent. “Don’t cry, just whisper in my ear and laugh. God, let me here that laugh please. I have a joke here somewhere, please just laugh.”
He could almost hear her laugh. It made him tingle to hear it. Her eyes would light up and her mouth would curve “just so”. It was no wonder everyone loved her so much. It used to drive him crazy, and he often felt in the beginning like she liked them more than she liked him. She paid more attention to them, and he felt relegated to a dark corner of the room. He believed she gave them more of her than she gave him, but once he began to listen and to see the truth he realized what a fool he was. She gave him so much more of herself than she had given anyone else. She loved him, and offered to him parts of her he was sure no one else had ever seen. She even gave him what he asked for, and in the process showed him the truth. “What a fucking idiot I was” he said to himself. “I want my fucking life back, I want to love her like she deserved to be loved from the first time we met. Please God, give it back to me, I won’t waste a second…”
God’s answer was a gasp for air and an intense pain in his chest. He shook his head angrily at the reply, and then focused as he had learned on the beauty around him. He could feel his children in his arms again as they had been as babies. He could hear them say “I love you dada” and feel their little hands take his index finger as they struggled to walk. He could feel them cuddled next to him when they got older as he read their favorite book. He could remember the lectures to his son about sports, the diatribes to his daughters about boys, the millions of laughs and the relatively small numbers of tears. He loved to make them laugh, and he would often make himself the butt of his own jokes to get them laughing hysterically. As he looked into his woman’s eyes something must have told her, “please tell my babies I love them. Please don’t ever let them forget.”
“I won’t. But you’re not going anywhere. You will tell them yourself.”
“God I wish” was his heart’s reply. His children were the first people he ever felt pure love for. They taught him what it was to love and be loved, and the woman who now cradled him softly taught him how right he was. His children gave him value as a father, she taught him value as a lover, together they taught him value as a man. Even now as he spent his last moments in this existence she was here, showing him his value and the true meaning of love. It wasn’t in the nifty words he could string together. It wasn’t in the sex. It wasn’t in the outward show of affection. It was in the truth that made all of those things possible, but not necessary. They were necessary to the ego, the truth was necessary only to itself and it owed something only to itself. He had understood that early on, but it took him time to get over himself to actually use it. His past had once so cluttered his mind that it stole precious moments away from him and from them. Moments made even more precious by their imminent end.
He could feel the end coming. Within him became a mixture of peace and pain, of darkness and light. He realized this interesting parallel in the life we all lead. It seemed what we call death is just like what we call life, a mixture of suffering and joy. Even now, as he suffered intensely amid the final pathway to peace he couldn’t go there. Not yet. He wanted to spend one more moment with this woman who had changed his life and brought the sunshine where none existed. For that he would bear whatever pain that had to be borne. He suddenly became calm, and the pain seemed to subside. This, as it had been his entire life, was the power of Love.
He looked at her and felt healthy. His breathing seemed to return to normal, and the pain in his chest subsided. He shook his head slowly, although he was not sure at what. It felt like the first time they met, with a mixture of excitement and anticipation followed by realization and love. Then she laughed, oh God she laughed. Through the tears and sniffles she laughed. His head, now on her thighs as she stroked his head and wiped the tears from his cheeks, shook a bit with each burst of laughter. He was able to lift his arms long enough to wipe her hair from her face and stroke the contour of her jaw line one final time. Suddenly, he found his voice for one last poetic verse to his lover.
“Baby, I love you. Since the dawn of time I have loved you. It may be here, or it may be there, but somewhere I will be loving you. Please, know that it is you, and it always has been you. I am grateful for last night, and for every night I have had with you. I am also very grateful for this moment and that it was with you. I love you…I swear.”
As she bent to kiss him, he closed his eyes, grateful that the last vision he would have in this lifetime was of her, his lover, his friend, his guiding star. They kissed sweetly with a passion that had never left. With that, he inhaled deeply and headed toward peace.