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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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Love Stories Worth Remembering

Grace lies on a hospital bed, diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, unable to move but fully alert and able to think. She’s trapped in her own body, and she’s been like this for about ten years. She’s seventy years old and her son has gone and left her; he never visits. Her only solace comes from the daily calls her husband makes. She longs for those precious minutes when she gets to hear his voice telling her, “I love you.”

Grace’s story is not that much different from many elderly couples across the nation. Couples who have struggled through hardships together for thirty or so years cannot prevent the one challenge that, in many cases, will break them apart – deteriorating health.

Today, on Valentine’s Day, we think more about love and relationships than on any other day of the year. From our youth we can all remember the great Disney love stories. In these classical Disney renditions of old fairy tales, young girls marry the love of their dreams and live happily ever after. Yet before they can reach this ‘happily ever after,’ their relationship is challenged by some scenario that will test their love.

In Snow White, Snow is poisoned by an evil queen and put into a deep sleep. Cinderella has to run away from her Prince before he can even find out her name, and Ariel is not able to even speak to her love.

In the end though we see that love will persevere through all odds. The elderly couples of our nation face a story similar to that of all the Disney princesses, yet the challenges that keep them from being together are far more realistic. The dedication and love of Grace’s husband to call her everyday to tell her he loves her – that is a true love story.

When we see the tragedy of love torn apart, we only wish there was something that we could do. Unfortunately, once crisis strikes, it is too late to make a real difference. Planning early for long-term care can help prevent couples from being separated. Imagine if only Cinderella had a better plan that night of the ball. She might have been able to use the short time she had more efficiently so she would never have had to leave thinking she would never see her prince charming again.

Unlike Cinderella, we do not know how much time we have before something unexpected happens in the health our loved ones, something we are not prepared for. The worst may come and the choice for one spouse to leave the other may have to be made, but by talking about options well beforehand, by making plans for circumstances that may or may not happen, we will have allowed our parents to have a far greater chance of staying together.

According to the U.S. census the amount of seniors aged sixty-five years and older who are divorced has risen forty-eight percent 1990 to 2004. There are many elderly couples who feel that deteriorating health has caused them to have to make the decision between “till death do us part,” and divorce, yet against the rising statistics, couples like Grace and her husband choose to care for each other until the end.

These are love stories worth remembering, stories of struggle, perseverance, and hope that a separated couple may one day still have their happily ever after.

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