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The Meaning of Love

Valentine’s Day holds different meanings for people in various stages of life. Young single women just getting over their last breakup are cynical about the ‘day of love.’ Newly-wed couples approach Valentine’s Day with passion. Older couples, married for many years, approach the day with a hope for rekindling love. For many of the elderly, Valentine’s Day is a time of broken smiles and bittersweet memories of a spouse who has moved on.

When most people think about Valentine’s Day, words such as ‘romance,’ ‘dating,’ and ‘love’ come to mind. Love is an interesting word. It is most often used to denote the love between a man and a woman, or romantic love. However, ‘love’ comes in many more forms: the love of inanimate objects, the simple love of an owner to his dog, the love of friends to each other, the love of a leader to his people, and the enduring bond of love within a family.

I had a friend who would always say: “Valentine’s Day is pointless. If you have to have a day to remind you to tell someone you love them then you don’t really love them at all.” Valentine’s Day may be dubbed ‘the day of love,’ but within in a family especially, everyday should be a day in which you take a moment to let those you care about know just how much you love them.

In Shakespeare’s Sonnet #73, Shakespeare talks about how there’s a special almost more affectionate love that the younger generation has for those who are elderly and will soon leave them. This sonnet speaks to the simple truth that we love more what soon might be taken from us. As Shakespeare said: “This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, to love that well which thou must leave ere long.” What’s sad is when that love near the end of life is the only love our grandparents and parents ever receive from us.

There are many grandchildren who never even meet their grandparents, and even more who never have the opportunity or will to try to have a simple family relationship with them. Families begin together in one house and though age and circumstance may split them apart, the love or affection they once felt for each other should never be allowed to disappear.

Valentine’s Day may be a hard and lonely time for many of our elderly loved ones and not just those that have lost spouses. It may be hard for them because on that day, they have to watch young couples, friends, siblings, and young parents all expressing their love to each other while our elderly loved ones are spending the day mostly alone in a facility or at home. Many of us may make a special effort to reach out to our elderly loved ones on this ‘day of love’ just as we do on Christmas and other special occasions, but as my friend said, we should not make these special holidays the only time we let our elderly family members know how much we care.

In today’s world, many struggle telling people the words ‘I love you.’ When we were younger, our love seemed a lot freer to give than it is now. Sometimes the difficulty of saying those three words with true meaning makes them that much more special for our elderly loved ones to hear.

One day, maybe soon, we may lose our elderly loved ones. When that day comes, how much less painful will it be if we can say with surety, “They died knowing that I loved them.” Everyone needs to feel loved, everyone needs to feel needed. It is an innate part of human nature. Let us then not forget that our parents and grandparents need to feel that same love that we do.

Below is a poem by Krina Shah that sums of the simple love we should have for and share with our elderly loved ones:

“To love is to help and encourage,

with smiles and sincere words of praise,

to take time to share,

to listen and care

in tender, affectionate ways.

To love is to make special memories

of moments you love to recall;

of all the good things

that sharing life brings

love is the greatest of all.”

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, let’s not forget that ‘love’ can mean more than just romance. For you, love may mean protecting and watching out for those you care about. For another love can be simply taking a moment out of your busy life to have a conversation. For many, love means letting those you care about know that you’re thinking about them and that they have not been forgotten. Whatever you choose to do this week and in weeks to come, at least stop for a moment to think of your elderly loved ones and ask yourself, “What does love mean to me?”

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