A letter that Peter DeMarco wrote has gone viral. First reported in The New York Times, he wrote it to the hospital staff who cared for his wife as she lay dying. One of their last moments together touches on the gospel. Do you see it?
A month ago, Laura Levis, 34-year-old wife of Boston writer Peter DeMarco, suffered a devastating asthma attack. She was rushed to the hospital. Seven days later, she died.
On October 6th, The New York Times published DeMarco’s deeply touching letter that he wrote to the intensive care unit staff of CHA Cambridge Hospital. He wanted to express his gratitude for how they had cared for Laura and also helped him cope.
Be forewarned: their last hour together is heart wrenching. Yet it is holy. Sensing that Laura’s death was close at hand, the hospital staff did Peter a favor. They shifted Laura to the right side of her bed, leaving just enough room for Peter to crawl in with her one last time. “I asked if they could give us one hour without a single interruption, and they nodded, closing the curtains and the doors, and shutting off the lights.”
“I nestled my body against hers. She looked so beautiful, and I told her so, stroking her hair and face. Pulling her gown down slightly, I kissed her breasts, and laid my head on her chest, feeling it rise and fall with each breath, her heartbeat in my ear. It was our last tender moment as a husband and a wife, and it was more natural and pure and comforting than anything I’ve ever felt. And then I fell asleep.”
“I will remember that last hour together for the rest of my life.”
He will. That was a holy moment. As Pope John Paul II noted, the gospel is best told in our bodies. It is the story of God’s intention for his Son, Jesus, to “marry us.” Christ began his public ministry at a wedding and later compared the kingdom of heaven “to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son” (Mt. 22). The gospel is the wedding of divinity and humanity, best told in our sexuality as male and female.
I like how Eugene Peterson renders the Apostle Paul’s take on this. Marriage is “a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all” (Eph.5:32). The angels don’t understand it either. They “long to look into” it (I Pet. 1:12). That’s what mysteries do. They’re magnets, drawing us in. The gospel is a mystery. It explains what DeMarco did.
In the gospel, male sexuality reflects Christ as groom. Female sexuality reflects church as bride. Christ is the living Word. He shed his blood to win his bride, the church. Believers are to be like “newborn babies” who long for the “pure milk of the word, so that we may grow in salvation” (I Pet. 2:2). Christ’s shed blood is to be turned into life-giving milk for believers. What part of the female anatomy reflects this?
That’s a no-brainer. When a mother gives birth, her mammary glands enlarge, turning life-giving blood into life-giving milk. I don’t think it’s heretical or prurient to suggest that Jesus finds this anatomical feature of his bride very, very attractive. Even intoxicating.
So do men. “May her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love” (Proverbs 5:19). A wife’s breasts ought to be very, very attractive to her husband. He should view them as delicate and beautiful, “like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies” (Song of Songs 4:5 & 7:3), or “like clusters of fruit” (7:7-8). A husband ought to long to take hold of his wife’s breasts, to kiss them, and to snuggle against them, feeling a sense of serenity and sanctity that’s beyond words.
That’s what Peter DeMarco felt. In his last hour with Laura, he kissed her breasts. He laid his head on her chest. It was their last tender moment. DeMarco described it “as more natural and pure and comforting than anything I’ve ever felt.”
It was. It is.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.” C. S. Lewis, who also lost his wife, embraced the faith that explains everything. If you read DeMarco’s letter carefully, you’ll see the Christian faith explains why kissing his wife’s breasts was holy.