As the memory of my wife slowly fades, I want to write one last article on what I have learnt from her.
I want to talk about love – which really was her expertise.
There are many elements of love. The more of them you are able to integrate into your personality, the more you will love those around you. These are the elements that Elana exemplified.
Accept a person for who they are. If you want to love, you need to accept. No one is perfect. In fact, most of us have many faults. Accept this as a fact and love a person for their virtues while accepting that they are a package deal. If you want the virtues, you get the faults also.
Give and Give: people think that a relationship is about give and take. We Jews believe that it is about give and give. Elana was never concerned about herself. I always came first and the children next. Others around us after that and she herself was somewhere in the distance. It’s not easy to do this without being a doormat, but the balance is important to find. Elana was never a doormat. She stood up for herself when she needed to, but was ready to forget about herself at all other times. In particular, I remember being in the delivery room with her. During every contraction, she would look at me and assure me that she was not really in pain. She said she knew that it hurt me to see her in pain more than it hurt her to be in pain (and of course I assured her this must be the case!) As much pain as she was in, all she could think about was me.
Compromise: Elana would always compromise – even on things that really mattered to her. Yes, there would be arguments, but her guiding principle was always this: don’t focus on winning the argument, focus on winning the relationship. Sometimes she would win the argument and sometimes she would lose – but always she would win the relationship.
Don’t compromise: There were areas she would never compromise and those were the areas of her values. If she felt I was making a mistake in values, she would fight me till I submitted. There was to be no compromise where values were concerned – and rightly so. If you compromise your values for a relationship, then who are you? And if there is no you, then what is the relationship?
Forgive: we all make mistakes. But Elana was quick to forgive. And it’s important to forgive, not just forget. If you forget without forgiving, you will harbour the resentment. It may not surface immediately, but it will fester inside and affect the relationship. If you want to love, you have to forgive. Yes, there are actions that are unforgivable, but most don’t fit into that category. Again, don’t allow yourself to be abused, but forgive when you know the person you love meant and means no harm.
Expectations: don’t have high expectations of the one you love. If you do, you will probably often be disappointed. It also puts pressure on them. Set your expectations low and you will liberate them to take initiative. Elana expected hardly anything of me in our relationship. I won’t say I was always able to surprise her, but it was often enough. And I felt so comfortable and relaxed.
To sum up, Elana was able to make me and all around her feel so loved. At the shiva, so many people commented that to know her was to be loved by her and equally, to know her was to love her, because love is, more often than not, reciprocated. She gave to me unconditionally, she accepted my faults as well as my virtues, she forgave my mistakes, was uncompromising on her values, and always compromised her personal desires, had no expectations and always won the relationship – and more often than not, the argument also.
I will miss her tremendously, but she has left me and my children with a legacy of lessons to last a lifetime.