I met Elaine Mansfield just before my mom’s death. I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but somehow through a friend of a friend on Facebook. There are some people you’re immediately drawn to; you don’t know why, but you feel as though your souls are connected in some mystifying way. It’s as if you’ve known them for years. That’s how I feel about Elaine.
Elaine & Vic: A Love Story
Slowly, I came to know her story. This was a fascinating woman who had lived (and continues to live) an extraordinary life. The one thing that resonated most, though, was the love story of her and Vic. While I do believe in “forever love,” I don’t think it happens often, and maybe that’s just a function of people giving up when the going gets though. Elaine and Vic’s relationship, however, is proof that love can stand the test of time and survive all of life’s many ups and downs.
You can read more about Elaine and her background on her website and blog, ElaineMansfield.com, but I’m here to tell you about her newly released book, Leaning Into Love: A Spiritual Journey Through Grief. Pour a cup of hot tea, curl up in your favorite blanket, and grab this book. It will draw you in and hold you until the final page.
The Many Layers of Love
When I read Elaine’s work, whether a blog post, article, or this book, I find myself fully immersed in her world. The imagery she creates through words is uniquely beautiful; as you read, it’s as though you’re peering through a peep hole, watching intently as things unfold. Her writing has a spiritual depth such that you’ll walk away from any of her work with a changed perspective.
Leaning Into Love begins in early 2006, when Vic develops a persistent case of what appears to be the flu. We journey along with the couple through his cancer diagnosis and the ensuing months. Elaine shares the raw emotion that naturally accompanies a life altering event like this, and one of the things I love is her honesty. There is no sugar coating; the emotions portrayed are as real as it gets.
It’s a touching reminder that even in the most loving relationship, stress takes a toll. People lose patience; they say and do things they regret later. I found it refreshing to read not only about this couple’s unconditional love and boundless support for one another, but also the moments of frustration and rebellion. We’re all human. We’re conditioned to think true love looks like a Hallmark commercial, but alas, it has its share of bumps in the road. Bravo to Elaine for sharing both sides of the story.
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama
The teachings of the Dalai Lama are woven throughout the book, and we see what a crucial role this great man played in the lives of the Mansfields. One of the most poignant moments in the book comes when Vic, nearing the end of his battle with cancer, meets with the Dalai Lama at a Colgate University event.
Colgate’s president Rebecca Chopp introduces the panel members and welcomes His Holiness. Then she nods to Vic, who walks toward the Dalai Lama holding a silk wrapped copy of his book and bows deeply.
The Dalai Lama steps off the podium, moves close to Vic, and peers intently into his eyes. His voice breaking with tears, Vic thanks His Holiness for the spiritual, political, and intellectual inspiration he has given him, his students, and the world…
Death would come shortly, but for that moment, hearts overflowed with nothing but joy, love, and light. A proud moment Elaine will treasure forever.
In the second half of Leaning Into Love, we accompany Elaine on a new journey as she begins to find herself following Vic’s passing. As time marches on, the author begins to unlock the mystery of who she will be without her soulmate by her side. During this time, she finds that creating rituals helps to sooth her soul and quiet her mind. Slowly she becomes acquainted with her new self.
Despite catastrophe and repeated failures, new life persists and eventually takes flight. Even though the bluebirds lost everything, the female has a new nesting cavity by now and warms a new clutch of eggs. Birds do not understand hopelessness or failure. They keep trying…
Like wrens, my solitary life is plainer and less exciting than my old life, but there is still potential. Like the wrens and bluebirds, I will not give up hope.
Inspiration. Despite it all, there is hope. Life changes; it ebbs and flows. We lose the ones we love and at the same time we grow and morph into new people ourselves. It’s a rebirth of sorts.
Our priorities change; perhaps if we’re lucky, through the tragedy, we find our purpose in life. We miss them more than words can describe, and there are days when all we can think of is what our lives used to be like. Through Leaning Into Love, Elaine shows us that life does go on following great loss, and it can be stunningly beautiful and filled with depth and purpose.
Thank you, Elaine.
You can find Leaning Into Love on Amazon (don’t forget to use Amazon Smile!) and visit Elaine’s website to learn about her upcoming events, including a November 8th TedX Talk in Corning, NY. Be sure to bookmark Elaine’s blog, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Your words are beautiful and full of love. You picked some of my favorite quotes and stories. I’m blown away by your review.
Thank you for mentioning how hard it is to be the caregiver–and it’s even more challenging to care for someone with Alzheimer’s like your sweet mom and mine. We judge ourselves harshly and remember each time we fail to be our very best patient self. We don’t honor ourselves for sticking with someone for months and years in the most stressful circumstances and making sure they receive all the help we can get them. I learned, and I know you did, too, that the huge ocean of Love is large enough to hold the roughest experiences.
I can’t thank you enough for this heartfelt article. I look forward to sharing it widely.
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Ann Napoletan said:
The pleasure was all mine, Elaine! The book is wonderful and so is the author. I’m sure Vic is smiling down on you, bursting with pride. Much love, my friend.
Dennis A. Dore said:
Thanks, Ann! You’re heartfelt article about my dear friend moved me to tears. We are drawn close by FB to people we’ve never meet and probably never will, just not close enough to hug and say “Bless you.”
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Ann Napoletan said:
You’re so right about that, Dennis. Thanks for your kind words.