Tuesday, March 15, 2011

love: competing vs. complementing

Today is the ides of March.  Yeah.  No deep thoughts about that.  I was just thinking about the date today and... it is what it is.

I have so many jumbled thoughts in my head... I just feel like writing...kinda like how Forrest Gump "just felt like running".

I cried a little bit here and there yesterday while catching up with some good friends.  If I don't have time to write, then talking out my thoughts is the next best thing.  I cried a little when I looked through a scrapbook  on the coffee table and saw a page that Anderson had created.  I read what he wrote.  It made me both laugh and cry and miss him so much... all at the same time.  I cried a little when I had the realization that... Anderson is just a part of my life... a very large part of it, but just a part of it nonetheless.  I know life goes on and it has. I know that I will not stop living and growing (old... ugh), and I'm working now and going to school... and hanging out with friends... and all of this happens now without him physically here on this earth... but the thought of him just being a part of, and not the consummate whole, of my life... made me cry.  Somehow... together forever... wasn't quite "forever" for me.  Although it will be...

Actually... together forever... is the reality.  This separation is actually just a small part of it.  Hm.  Very true, very true.

Anyway, so reminiscing yesterday... made me want to go back and look at the scrapbook that Anderson made for me.  He gave it to me as part of his proposal.  And in case some of you forgot... because I actually haven't thought about it in a long time... I wanted to reminisce and tell it to you again.  Somehow when people ask me about Anderson... hardly anyone asks about how he proposed to me.  Maybe all the other exciting things that happened after that seem to overshadow this part of the Tifferson story, but it's still important to me and I'm just going to tell it again.

Not yet.  Not finished with my thoughts yet.  Hold your horses.

One of the things that I was scared to death about losing was our memories.  Some things I remember and I don't know WHY I do... and a lot of things I forget.  I forget so many things.  It kinda works in my favor sometimes... but... for this... for my memories with Anderson... I was absolutely scared to lose them.  We spent countless moments saying, "remember when..." and almost every night we spent in the hospital... I'd have a "remember when..." moment with him.  At least one... more likely lots and lots.  I liked that there was someone who would remember with me... someone who shared these moments with me and could bring me back "in a flash" to those good times.  It seems like a lot of my friends now... either haven't met him or hardly knew him.  I guess that just means that I've made a lot of new friends or that life has moved on... or that God brings me lots and lots of people with whom I can share our story with. 

I'm very, very thankful that he decided to make me a scrapbook.  Anderson was not a big writer.  He actually was a man of fairly few words.  It amazed me to think about all the ways in which he'd grown to show me he loved me in ways that speak to me the loudest... that were totally against his natural tendencies.  On the first page, he wrote,
"I hope you enjoy looking through this book more than I've enjoyed making this for you." 
And I did.  I do.  This man... my beloved... preserved some of our best memories specifically for me... to have a "remember when..." moment with me long after our conversations about them have ended.   It's like he knew and prepared beforehand.  I feel so... loved.

So I had a date with my husband, first thing when I woke up this morning.  I haven't been sleeping well lately.  It was nice to wake up and decide to spend some time with him.  In reading the words he wrote for me... his love notes... I was reminded of his personality... the things that he used to say... the jokes we used to make... our sayings... and all the silly things we used to do together.  We were so young and definitely so in love.  If this book weren't about me... I might be sick at how disgustingly lavish our love was.  Every single picture... is filled with so much love and joy... every page was thought through and designed with loving care.  So much meaning.  So much love.  OMG I can barely stand it.

OK.  I think I'm ready to start telling the story of our engagement.

I think I've mentioned it before... but in case you forgot... Anderson told me he loved me 2 weeks after we started dating.  LOL.  He's so crazy.  He also used to joke about the first time we went to McDonald's together... about how I paid for his hot fudge sundae and it made him fall in love with me.  $1.  Who knew the ticket to his heart was such a deal? 

So... he loved me 2 weeks after dating me... and I waited 5 years after that for him to propose.  And just as a little secret that I may or may not have ever told him (I forget...)... I was already waiting for him to propose after our 2-year mark... so... yeah.  You can call me patient and long-suffering but... God and I both know that I was far from it at the time.  I was frustrated all the time with everyone and everything... and I simply was not ready to get married even though I had completely convinced myself I was.  And Anderson was a pretty slow-moving type of a person.  Pretty much my complete and total opposite... but... my complement. 

So it was June 2008.  As far as the brain cancer saga... this was his first recurrence after his initial surgery in 2006.  The tumor kept growing at an alarming rate despite having changed his chemo twice, so the doctors had decided to operate again.  The only thing was that UCLA medical center was in the process of moving into the new hospital building so they weren't scheduling any surgeries at the moment.  His surgery was scheduled for July... so we had to wait.

It was a random Monday.  I had gone to the gym after summer school (I was in nursing school at the time) and then I went over to his house.  I was gross and I hadn't showered.  I remember being really sad.  I can't remember what we were talking about, but I'm pretty sure it was something to do with the "what ifs" and the thought of not being together forever... why it had to happen to us... and I remember that we were holding each other and crying together.  And then... I also remember... that we prayed.  We prayed and as we were praying... we stopped crying.  I really don't remember what was said, but I do remember being flooded with peace and hope... and that the tears of sadness had stopped flowing.

Anderson then proceeded to walk to his little shelf and he pulled out a scrapbook.  I'd found that scrapbook before in his room and he lied to me and told me that he bought it for his sister and her baby.  He handed me the scrapbook and on the cover were pictures of us.  Happy pictures.  Pictures from his graduation, from a cruise we went on, from a valentine's we spent on the beach, at the OC fair when we went to see Alton Brown, from retreat... and a picture of the bench that we had our first special conversation. That conversation on the bench was the first time he told me that he wasn't going to go to culinary school or finish applying for an FBI job... he was going to go back to Brazil to work for his parents.  It wasn't because he didn't have options... it was because they'd loved him so much that he wanted to return their love by taking over the family business.  I didn't have much to say.  It hit me that he was special and remarkable.  I told him, "you're a good person".  And that was that.  But it was a meaningful and memorable conversation... and we often frequented that bench every time we would go back to visit Balboa Island.  It was "our" bench.

I opened the scrapbook.  Page after page of our most special memories.  Our "remember when..." moments.  I started to cry again, but these were no longer tears of sadness... they were tears that flowed from a heart overwhelmed by the love this man had for me.  I tried my best to read even though my vision was blurred with tears.  While I was reading... he went and got the ring.  When I had reached the last page, he got down both knees, opened the box and asked me if I would make him the happiest man on earth by being his wife.

from the email blast I sent that night...
As of about 9pm June 16, 2008, Anderson and I are engaged.

Here is my "bling".  The prettiest, shiniest, tiniest and although 2nd most expensive thing I own (after my car), it is the most meaningful hunk of carbon and gold of my entire life.

He hadn't gotten a chance to finish the scrapbook before proposing.  As we were waiting for his surgery, his coordination was getting worse... he would get dizzy really easily... and he was tired all the time. 

He'd made a few more pages for me after the surgery... even after he had double vision, which made it extremely difficult to be on the computer and photoshop.  He made a page reminding me about our engagement.  He also wrote down his side of the story "in case you don't remember very clearly, here is the moment in writing".  How'd he know?

He also made me a page titled Tiffany Ng Chen.  :)  He knew that I didn't like the hassle of having to always tell people how to pronounce my last name... so he took care of that for me too by making me a Chen.  At the end of that page, he wrote, "I promise to take care of you always, darling.  I promise to make you the happiest person forever". 

The very last page of the scrapbook... had a picture of the first time we went to San Diego together.  We'd gone to the cliffs... the same cliffs that I'd returned with his ashes in a ziploc snack baggie... the same cliffs where I'm pictured in my FB profile pic with the hat and sunglasses...

It wasn't this picture, but it was similar to this one.  He'd photoshopped it more to bring out the sunset behind us.  Or maybe he invented a sunset behind us... I dunno.  This is what he wrote:
Throughout my entire life I've never met anyone like you. I never thought I could miss someone so much until I left for my first trip to Brazil. I never thought I'd love someone so much that I'd practically risk everything just to see a smile on that beautiful face. I never thought a person like you existed. Thank you darling for being my best friend, girlfriend and fiancee. Thank you for our future together. Thank you for loving me unconditionally.
How did I get so lucky?  How did I ever find someone who would love me like this?  He loved me in action and he learned how to love me through words.  It was consistent... through and through.  I think the answer is that it didn't happen by accident and that we were a match made in heaven... by the God who created both of us... for Him and also for each other.

As I laid there in bed with a tear-soaked face... I pondered how my heart could have had enough room to love a man with so much of myself... and love God at the same time... and how it were possible to have room to love anyone else on top of that.  How is it possible to be so consumed with love, to receive it and give it so generously and lavishly...?  How is there any love left for God or anyone else? 

Honestly... at the time... I'm pretty sure I loved Anderson first and foremost and God next.  God was patient with me though... patiently and lovingly waiting for me... happy to provide me with all the desires that I thought I'd wanted and even more than I could ask or think... and yet He had still saved the best for afterwards.  It was like breadcrumbs leading to the candy house and Anderson was the cupcake at the doorstep.  I loved the cupcake.  It wasn't until the cupcake was gone that I realized that it was God who gave me the cupcake to lead me to the candy mansion that He had prepared for me and Himself.  For us.

Inside the candy mansion is where I was meant to be... not at the doorstep with a cupcake.  Wow. That was a weird sentence.

I can't remember where I'd read it but I do remember jotting down a verse and then drawing pictures of the images of my understanding of the verse.  It was kinda like this...

Don't you love my paint skills?  In case it's so ugly it's unrecognizable... me by myself... I have a small heart and small hands.  Me with God... my heart is expanded and my hands are as well.  When it's me and God... my heart grows to be more like His... with a love more like His... with a depth and breadth of love more like His... and consequently... there is more than enough for me to give... especially when loving God and loving my husband are in perfect congruency with one another.  They are not competing forces... they are complementing... and what is it called when one causes an increase in another and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger?  Exponential growth?  That's what it's like. 

Loving God makes it possible for me to love my husband and also love others.  In fact, I think it's probably the only way it was possible for our love to grow in the deepest darkness, amidst the heavy torrential storms of our lives.

And this kind of love... so pure... so joyful... so all-encompassing... you cannot help but to love in return.  Anderson loved me first with this kind of love and he helped teach me how to love him in return... which in turn, helped teach me how to love God in return... to love the giver of the cupcake after loving the cupcake.

I also did want to mention... the sermon from a few weeks ago... Pastor Dan preached on Ezekiel.  I cried a lot during that sermon.  When he preached about the love between a husband and a wife... the love that compelled the husband to choose someone who was discarded in the wilderness... dirty and worthless... despised by the world... that's how I felt.  I felt like the one who was left out in the world... dirty, helpless and left to die.  Until I was chosen... redeemed... cleaned up and clothed in fine clothes... and I was taken as a wife in the mansion of a king... not a servant, but a wife.  Elevated to the highest place in the household... adorned with jewels... with my bling thing.  This is a love that redeems.  This is a love that gives us worth and meaning in a world that hates us.  This is no ordinary love.  This is a love that drives me to reciprocate.

And yet... what if... instead of appreciating that love... instead of dwelling in the mansion that my husband gave me... what if I took my jewels... my precious engagement ring which is the symbolic culmination of the precious love of my beloved for me... what if I took that ring and gave it to some random guy I saw on the side of the freeway as payment for him to have a one night stand with me?  Isn't that utterly disgusting?  What betrayal?  What audacity... how dare I squander the precious jewels given to me by the king... to prostitute myself... nay... worse than prostitute because prostitutes get paid... but for me to PAY someone with the jewels given to me as a gift... to whore myself to any passerby.  Despicable.  Despicable me.  I can't even find a word that fully describes how heinously disgusting this situation is... and not only that... to imagine the heartbreak of my husband to find that the jewel he so lovingly chose for me... the ring that Anderson had custom-made for my finger... with the diamond that he chose because it sparkled and shone so much more than the others he saw... that I would just throw it away like trash to someone who doesn't love me and who will leave me dirty, empty, broken, and worthless like the person I was before he redeemed me.   Oh pierce my heart and bleed me out before I do that to my beloved.  And yet, this is what we do to God every single time we choose anything that we feel will fulfill us and our fleshly desires.  The guy on the street who doesn't even know my name... who will take my jewel not as a token of love, but as something that he will turn around and sell for his own gain... he will not satisfy.  So... don't leave the candy mansion... keep my bling on my finger... and don't pursue other lovers... pursue THE Lover of my soul... as my one and only.  Fidelity... and faithfulness... loyalty... and devotion... and walk in a manner worthy of my calling... of my inheritance... of my position in the candy mansion.

Ok.  It's been a very long time that I've been sitting here and writing.  I must be getting rusty. 

I just wanted to end with something that my friend, Laurie (shout out!), wrote for me... to help me put into words what I felt in my heart.  When I was asked what I felt was Anderson's legacy... all I could come up with was one word... and that word was "love".  This is what she wrote, which I think elaborates so eloquently what I had only felt but couldn't nail down:

=)  i have two answers for this question...

1. YOU are anderson's legacy.  not in some cheesy superficial way, but that through all that he went through, anderson taught you how to love God more and propelled you to be this catalyst for so many others to come to Christ and praise God more.  you are living proof of anderson's goodness and kindness which is now manifested in every blog you write, message you give, and each time you care for a patient.   you are continuing his message of faith and hope.  his love for you overflowed into thousands of other people's lives...

2. this is a more global answer.  i think anderson was used by God to bring glory to Himself.  he was just this regular guy who God used in amazing ways and i think he took pride in the fact that he didn't have to be this grandiose, spectacular figure to accomplish great things.  he accomplished great things with so much humility and never pretended to be anything he wasn't.  he didn't preach publicly, but somehow preached to each person he knew.  he didn't travel the world professing God's name and yet he managed to tell people around the world of God's glory.  anderson left this world with so much dignity that people who don't even know him have the greatest respect for him.  that's pretty amazing. 

It IS pretty amazing, isn't it?  God is so good.  C'est si bon.

No comments:

Post a Comment