"A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They're just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.” - Maude
Moments like that bring all of the sadness of my life to the surface and the train of thought that runs through my mind is more like a Japanese bullet train running at 200 MPH. Before I know it I’ve relived all of the losses of the last ten years in ten seconds or less and my face is inexplicably wet.
When I am faced with these thoughts, or when I hear of others experiencing similar melancholy I often think about one of my favorite movies, Harold and Maude. This quirky 1971 film about an unlikely romance has more lessons dealing with love and life in it than anything else I’ve ever seen or read.
Harold is a troubled teen desperate for his mother’s love and affection. The only time he has ever seen love for him in her eyes was in a moment when she thought he had died. When she discovers he’s alive her love turns to apathy and Harold lashes out by vindictively and repeatedly faking his own death in front of her in clever and dramatic ways.
He meets 79 year-old Maude while sitting in on his favorite pastime, funerals. Vivacious Maude has lived an exciting and adventurous life full of love and passion. She takes it upon herself to open Harold’s world and release the hurt that has crusted over his heart. She teaches him how to live and in the process a romance is kindled between them.
There are two scenes in the film that always come to mind whenever I am feeling hurt over a loss of a loved one. The first one is a scene at an arcade. Harold uses a stamping machine and makes a souvenir coin with the inscription, “Harold loves Maude”. He presents it to her later when they are sitting by the water. Maude reads it, smiles and says, “And Maude loves Harold.” She kisses it and tosses it into the ocean. Harold is shocked and begins to ask why and Maude says, “So I’ll always know where it is.”
That’s the way I feel about death. The people I’ve loved are gone from my presence, but I find comfort in the knowledge that I always know there they are. Where is that? Here, right next to me.
The other scene, albeit a sad one, is when Maude is very ill and Harold is begging for her to find the will to live. He pours his heart out to her and tells her he can’t live without her. “I love you. I love you”, says Harold, a young man who has never admitted love to anyone. Maude rests in her accomplishment of reaching Harold and responds, “Oh! That's wonderful, Harold. Go - and love some more.”
Lesson? You might lose someone you love whether from death or disagreement, but you do not lose your ability to love. Love isn’t something you can lose. It’s always there waiting to be shared. Love is infinite, like the God who gives it to us every moment of our breathing. 1 Corinthians can tell you more about this, but I’ll leave that to you to discover so you can at least say you opened the book.
At some point this weekend I plan to pop in the DVD and watch again. Join me if you can.