It Must Be Love

It’s not every day that you write a story that ends up as a CBS World Premiere Sunday night movie earning the highest ratings of the evening. When Joyce and I wrote “Rediscovered Love” for our book, Meant To Be, we based it on a true story. Using editorial license, we added some elements that, in our experience, deepened and completed the story.

People have been asking us, “How did we feel on Sunday evening, February 15, watching ‘It Must Be Love?’” Truthfully, we had mixed feelings. It was incredibly exciting to know that many millions of people might be touched in some way by a project that was created by us. We also enjoyed Mary Steenburgen’s and Ted Danson’s performances, as well as the creative additions of Pulitzer Prize winning playwrite, Beth Henley. At the same time, as the movie ended, we felt somewhat disappointed that some of the deepest messages of our story were either minimized or eliminated altogether.

The original story in Meant To Be showed not only the drama of a couple both stranded in a snowstorm and stranded in their own marriage, but it also showed the way this couple turned a tragedy into a love story. Forced to be together in desperate circumstances for almost a month, Leo and Nancy Whitmore had their own private extended couples workshop. With the increasingly real threat of death ever before them, this couple took the risks in their relationship that inevitably led them to “rediscovered love.”

The real purpose of this article is to apply Nancy and Leo’s story to all our relationships. We may not be facing death in quite the same dramatic way, but we are nonetheless facing death. We may think it will be far off in the future, but how do we really know? If we accepted the possibility that, at any moment, a loved one could die in an accident or catastrophic medical illness, perhaps we, too, would take the same risks as the Whitmores. Perhaps we, too, would look more honestly at the ways our relationships are suffering – and do something about it.

So what exactly were the risks Leo and Nancy took that were excluded from the TV movie? The first was true appreciation. They told one another what they really loved about each other. They did this more and more throughout their ordeal. They spoke more from their hearts than they ever had during their marriage. Appreciation opens the heart to more and more love. It eases the way to healing old wounds.

A second risk was sincere apology. Nancy and Leo took responsibility for the ways their actions had hurt the other. Leo understood how his workaholism had shut Nancy out of his life, and Nancy understood how her intimate bond with their children had shut Leo out of her life. Their deep and heartfelt apology, not just a quick “I’m sorry” without real understanding and compassion, opened the door to even more appreciation and love.

A third risk was forgiveness, a pardon that is born out of hearing your partner take responsibility for the pain caused you, feeling your loved one’s heart and appreciation, and knowing you may not have all the time in the world together. Forgiveness can’t be forced. It’s not a mental exercise. It’s an expression of the heart’s generosity. Leo and Nancy forgave one another.

And a fourth risk was opening to spirituality, the existence of a power and love greater than themselves, an awareness, and even gratefulness, for a divine destiny that had brought them back to love. The couple began praying together, something they had never done before. When it became apparent that Leo was dying, Nancy lit their only remaining candle, and they had a recommitment ceremony, a second wedding. They promised to love and honor one another’s souls eternally. Their first wedding had been to love one another “until death does us part.” This wedding, a real wedding of two souls, went beyond death. Leo had become unable to eat snow, and Nancy decided to stop as well. She wanted to die with her beloved.

But their divine destiny was not to die that night in their camper stuck in the snow. They were rescued and given the gift of more years to celebrate their new marriage.

And now can you, too, open more fully to your own divine destiny, and take the same risks with your loved ones – to appreciate, to apologize, to forgive, and to open to the spiritual dimension of life? Please don’t wait till you’re stranded in a blizzard, or for another calamity to strike. Life is too precious to put off living – and loving.

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