Of arrows and lovers


By Hank Slikker

Special to The PREVIEW

“So, when did the arrow strike?” It’s a question I sometimes ask couples about their encounter with Cupid. Their response elicits an immediate smile framed within a variety of facial contortions. Almost everyone remembers their “Cupid Moment,” when the mystical arrow draws two people together against their will.

Like with Tony and Maria in “West Side Story,” your arrow may have struck at a party, when one face suddenly arrests another face across the dance floor.

Or it may have struck while skiing, when you happen upon a fallen, disheveled “princess.” Her snow-dusted eye lashes and blonde locks framing her wet face leads to a fireplace table with drinks together at the Last Lift Tavern.

Or it may have struck within a chance-glance encounter through opposite sides of a revolving door — one going in and the other going out. The arrow’s power has done its work.

But, unfortunately, a shadow loiters about. For, as potent as the arrow is, it has no power over fate. And while the stars align for Cupid’s targets, a couple’s destiny is a couple’s destiny. Bliss lasts only as long as fate allows.

You may recall Gen. Marc Antony of Rome and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. They fall in love at first sight, but suffer separation followed by tragedy. On a distant battlefield, Antony hears a false report of Cleopatra’s death and in grief, falls on his sword. As legend tells it, when Cleopatra hears of Antony’s suicide, she took an Egyptian cobra to her breast.

Antony and Cleopatra’s love cut short by fate perhaps offered the stimulus for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. When Romeo hears Juliet is dead, he drinks poison at her tomb. But Juliet is not dead. When she awakes from an induced stupor to find her beloved dead Romeo, she thrust a knife into her heart.

Unfortunately, a tragedy like this is commonplace.

On Oct. 10, 2017, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported the story of a Montana woman who died in an avalanche. Though her boyfriend survived the slide, he couldn’t survive the loss of his lover and took his life.

Not long ago, BlackDoctor.org reported the story of two teenage suicides. When he learned his 18-year-old girlfriend took her life in her college dorm room, her boyfriend, in uncontrollable grief, ended his life two days later.

And then there’s the USA Today story of an 11-year-old boy who read a prank text saying his 13-year-old girlfriend had taken her life. Shortly after, the grief-stricken boy hanged himself.

The stories of Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, and of those above reflect the nature of destiny — of love cut short by fate.

Many of us have suffered similar things, except we choose to live with the pain. It’s the story of the soldier drafted to war and does not return. It’s the story of a lover lost to disease, or to a car accident, or to ambition, or to another. Wherever we find love, we often find tragedy.

But Cupid doesn’t quit. He carries unlimited arrows and searches far and wide for targets of his fancy. He takes no thought of what might be. It’s the story of Valentine’s Day, of candles and lace, chocolates and roses and of “be my valentine” invitations.

But it’s also the story of God, the source of love, whose nature is love.

Long ago in a land far away, God betrothed Himself to the first two humans. Like Marjory Williams’ “Velveteen Rabbit,” He loved them to pieces. They took walks together, had picnics, made plans, learned of and adored one another.

But like love yesterday and today, it had no power against the dark force of fate. For, not long after God said “I do” to his loving companions, for some reason, they filed for divorce. He wept in grief, and his angels, too. But He never forgot them. He framed their pictures for his night stand and kneeled by His bed for them each night. They were His first thought each morning.

One day, He wrote them a letter. He told them he still loved them. He said He found a way to reconcile their separation. He invited them to a Valentine’s Day party, complete with family, friends, dinner, singers, musicians, linen napkins and chocolate strawberries dropped into the finest, deepest-colored homemade Cabernet.

He wrote to them in third person so all of their relatives could know who He was. He said, “For God so loved the world, He sent them a personal, engraved invitation by a Messenger saying, ‘Be my Valentine.’”