Near the end of his magnum opus on Christian love, Works of Love, Soren Kierkegaard includes a curious little meditation on loving those who are dead. Entitled “The Work of Love in Recollecting One Who Is Dead,” Kierkegaard considers how our love for the deceased may reveal more about our own ability to love than anything else. This is because those I love in life “cover over” certain parts of me, influencing me so profoundly that I cannot fully see myself as I really am. Even more significantly, in my love for those I prefer to love, I cannot see how I truly love and constantly deceive myself that my love is authentic and sufficient. This is because in the presence of the Other I am almost always tempted to not disclose everything, to hold something back, not be fully honest and sincere. But when I try to relate to one who is dead, there is really only one person in such a relationship: me. Only the one who is living is fully disclosed. The dead person cannot speak, change, disclose herself to me, or reciprocate my love.
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