There are different kinds of love, some cancerous and life-taking; others are life-giving. My niece Hannah who was born on February 14th, 1983 died of leukemia in 2006; however, to the end, she brought healing to many with her life-giving love. My family celebrates her life today. As I reflect upon Hannah’s life, I am reminded of her energy, courage, and humor, and her mindfulness of others’ pain even as she suffered greatly. It is fitting that she was born on St. Valentine’s Day.
Hannah was very human, but there was a divine-like quality in her love. It was creative and expansive rather than restrictive. I am reminded here of C.S. Lewis’s comparison of the demonic and the divine in Screwtape Letters. There the demon Screwtape writes to his nephew apprentice Wormwood, instructing him in how their “Enemy” (God) approaches the world so radically different from the Devil—the “Father Below”:
Like this account of demons, people can approach others from a vantage point of self-absorption. When we are consumed with self-love, we destroy others. When we are transformed by God’s selfless love, we breathe life into others.
We can spend our days taking the life of others through self-love and hate, or we can invest our days in expanding others’ lives by being full of God’s love and flowing over. As I remember Hannah today, I am inspired to think better thoughts of others, say kinder words to others, and give life rather than steal it. When others reflect back upon our lives, what will they remember? What card or letter will they write—demonic or divine? What action will they take?
C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1961, new preface, 1982), pages 37-38.