Unconditional Love, Bears, and My Ex Mother-In-Law

September 2011

So, I don’t go around saying this very often, but here it is: I don’t think I believe in unconditional love. Well, maybe disbelief is too harsh. I’m just not sure about it.

It seems like a terrible thing to say. Because unconditional love sounds so great. We so want it. We so want to believe we give it. Maybe it can exist…

I live in the mountains. A forest. We have mountain lions, deer, raccoons, possum, bobcats…the usual forest critters. No bears though. There used to be bears, but they’re gone. The last one was killed well over a 100 years ago. Bears exist. They live in other forests, but not the one I live in. They could exist here, but…

So maybe unconditional love is like bears. It exists, but not in my forest.

But…but…(you stammer after spewing your mouthful of martini all over the table) you believe in God.

Yes. I know. This is why I don’t go around saying this very much. It’s so contradictory. It’s unseemly.

I do think God- the Truest and Purist God- loves unconditionally. I do. 100%.


I have two problems holding on to that belief:

1- There is so much wrong and mean and terrible. Pain and heartbreak. Loss.

2- My church background did a good job of instilling in me the idea that God loves you IF you believe in him. IF you say this prayer. IF you live by his commandments. IF you do good deeds in his name. If you tithe…Iffity, if, if, if, if, ifffffffffffffffffffffff….

So, I’m not consistently able to stay in a place of confident faith in this unconditional loving God. And believing in unconditional love from people, that’s even harder.

So on Facebook the other day, a local posted that evidence of a bear had been found. In our forest! A bear! So many good places have bears and we’d have bears now, like there used to be, like other forests…

I have known unconditional love. Truly unconditional in a way that was unexpected and humbling.

June 2006

From my ex-mother-in-law.

She and I hit it off right away. Meeting her was a ringing endorsement for her son. If he had a mom like that, well, now we’re talking.

She was kind, talented, smart, humble, funny, lovely. She was the kind of person I wanted to be like. Oh, this is how you do that…

I called her Mom.

And when her son and I divorced, she continued to love me. And her son. And not that weird kind of love like, I love you, but  I don’t like what you did…And not just because I was the mother of her grandchild. She just loved. She was supportive and encouraging and kind and wonderful.  She asked if I would still call her Mom. She just loved. And I never for one second thought she was on my side or her son’s. I didn’t think she was on any side. I knew she loved her son. And I knew she loved me. It was something to behold.

It was something to learn.

I think she was more “Mom” after the divorce than before because of this love that continued past the time it was expected. That’s when it was really unconditional.

Mom passed away last week.

Her passing is one of those that my grief is tempered by the knowledge her suffering is over. But it is still one of those losses that hits you in the gut that her presence is gone. That the gift that was simply HER is no longer here. It was my turn to write. I had hoped to visit this summer. It’s still loss.


Turns out that story about a bear was fake. There is no bear.

But there could be someday. Because it’s happened before. Rest in perfect peace, Mom. Thank you for making me believe.