All You Need Is Love
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, June 8, 2015
I recollect, a few years ago, having gone with a dear friend to the apartment where her former husband lived.
He had died alone.
D’Angelo (not his real name) was a retired Army NCO, whom had volunteered for service. He was genuinely a “squared away” soldier, and rose to the rank of First Sergeant (E-8), which rank is politely nicknamed “Top,” because, aside from Sergeant Major which is also an E-8 position, it is the highest rank and position a NCO can obtain.
His generosity was well-known, and his humility, honesty and genuine love for his fellow man was evident throughout his life. And though he was a good man with many admirable character qualities, a congenial fellow, well liked – even loved – by many, it seemed he never could win the battle over the bottle.
What little I knew of him from others’ reports and my own limited interaction with him, he was an honorable family man. And yet, his family didn’t know it, and apparently had low regard for him because of his human frailty, particularly for the bottle.
When he had retired from the Army, never one to merely sit still and wait for things to happen, he became an entrepreneur, and opened two small businesses which employed a few people, and operated in the community of his residence for many years, perhaps ten. However, by that time, his wife and children had already left him, and he had remarried my friend Gayleen (not her real name).
What became curious to me as we were leaving D’Angelo’s apartment, was that his former wife, children and others had already been by and had thrown much of his apartment’s furnishings, personal belongings and effects into a nearby dumpster. The act of cleaning out his apartment itself wasn’t as much an ordeal as it was one reflective of ill will toward D’Angelo.
As Gayleen retold his story, she related how D’Angelo’s former wife and children had become and continued to be embittered over his alcoholism, and how they refused to work together with him to assist his recovery. They simply abandoned him… kicked him to the curb, as if he were so much human garbage.
They then proceeded to eschew almost anything remotely related to D’Angelo, and held themselves out as paragons of virtue, as if they had nothing to do with the man whom had invested his life into theirs, and they into his – almost pretending as if he didn’t exist. The solitary family member whom held any semblance of respect for him was one of his daughters Danielle (not her real name).
That day was overcast, setting a somber pall, and rain had fallen intermittently throughout the day. But the dumpster’s contents from his apartment were largely dry, indicating they had recently been tossed.
Glancing over the household debris, reminders of a life once lived, and one that mattered, I saw many things, among them, a large, elaborate gilded frame at least 16×20 in size. Wire was attached to the frame, and very little dust was on it, indicating great care had been taken to protect it.
Looking more closely, I saw it was a portrait of D’Angelo and his family, which he had commissioned to be painted by a German artist while he – along with his family – was stationed in Germany.
Instinctively, I reached in and rescued the beautiful painting from certain destruction and was aghast that it had been thrown away, considered as so much refuse.
As I thought about the bitterness, anger and resentment that was harbored in D’Angelo’s wife and children to the extent that they could not see the love in the action of one man – who thought enough of his family to so demonstrate to the world that he loved, provided and cared for them to have a custom portrait painted… I broke down and wept grievously.
Here was their father, dead… and the venom of their malevolent feelings still coursed through their veins, rather than love, sorrow, forgiveness and a blessed memory.
I told Gayleen to take that painting home with her, that someday, D’Angelo’s children would come to their senses, seek forgiveness for their foolish ways, and would wish they had something to remember their father by; and that when that day would come, they could say that a man, unknown to them, had thought enough of another man, his family, them, and their relationship with them, that he rescued an icon of familial love from certain destruction.
When loved ones and family members die, we should bless their memory – warts and all – for it is more than an indication of who we are, rather than who they were. He is gone, yet they remain.
For some reason, having shared this story, I think of the words of Jesus the Christ: “Who do men say that I am?”
He is the embodiment and personification of LOVE.
Christ did not emanate from a Being who has love, but emanated from The One Whom is LOVE.
And, as the Apostle reminds us, Love “Bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Yet we so often do. cf 1 Cor 13:7, 8a
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. cf Gal 6:2
He’s not heavy… he’s my brother.
19 May 2010
NOTE: D’Angelo died 2002. I had written this for my friend Gayleen 19 May 2010.
CORRECTION: E-9 (in the Army ranked as “Sergeant Major”) is the highest NCO rank/pay grade for an Enlisted Armed Service Member.