I’ve always looked at love as a verb, an action word, something that is shown or demonstrated. I think sometimes we tend to minimize the concept of true love by treating it simply as a noun, something that you might possess or hold.
My grandfather taught me about what it really means to love someone. His generation had a different perspective on marriage. When people got married back then, it was a covenant before God and each other that “For better or for worse…” they were committed to one another. No matter how difficult things got, they stayed together and determined to make things work.
Today people get divorced for no other reason than they’ve “fallen out of love.” No-fault divorce has become so rampant in our society that the institution of marriage sometimes takes on the appearance of a social networking program rather than a true commitment between two people to support and take care of each other through the good times as well as the bad.
My grandmother suffered from depression for many years and was not always the easiest person to live with. But my grandfather loved her. He was a humble, gentle man who worked by the sweat of his brow his entire life. He was a farmer, he was a storeowner, he was a steelworker, and he was a volunteer fireman. He was never wealthy, but he was wise and kind and he took his responsibility as a husband very seriously.
As my grandparents got older, grandma became very ill. She was bed-ridden and spent every day lying on her back in their tiny little bedroom. If she needed to use the bathroom, he would carry her from her bed to the bathroom and then back again. He would cook every meal for her and bring it to her. Eventually she began to lose her eyesight. She became more dependent on him even for discussion and entertainment. She could no longer watch television, or read. She would listen to the radio for hours and my grandfather would sit in his chair and talk with her or read her the newspaper, or other stories.
One day when I was visiting, he was so excited to show me this “new” invention that he’d discovered. It was a cordless telephone that he had just purchased. (The rest of us had been using them for years, but he hadn’t been paying attention.) He showed me how he could now go outside and spend more time in the garden without worrying that he wouldn’t hear grandma call from the bedroom. If she needed him, she could page him by pushing the little button on the base unit and his phone would beep. He had devised a cool little phone-holster that he could strap on his belt to carry the phone.
He cared for my elderly grandmother day and night. Keeping her company, ignoring her complaints, loving her regardless of her negativity and promising her that he would always take care of her.
Eventually it became difficult for him to walk, his hips were giving out and the doctors told him that he needed to have both hips replaced. He told me later that the hardest thing he’d ever done was tell my grandmother that he had to temporarily place her in an Elder-Care facility while he had his hip operations. He felt so much guilt over leaving her alone in an unfamiliar place that he rushed through his physical therapy in order to get her back home with him. He later told me that the day he brought her home was the happiest he’d seen her in years. “She was very kissy,” he said, and they spent the next week together, with him sitting next to the bed keeping her company. She died a week later.
Marriage isn’t only about the romance; it’s also about the commitment. We are going to learn a lot about our spouse over the years we are married. We are going to know what makes them happy, we are going to know what causes them pain, and we are going to be able to choose daily which of those results we want to produce.