“Do you believe in love, the kind that lasts forever?”
Meg Ryan, as Kate in French Kiss
We’re bombarded with examples of what love is “supposed” to look like from movies, TV shows, and celebrity reality shows where there are often grand gestures to prove love, advertisements, retailers, greeting card manufacturers…the list goes on.
But are their portrayals what love really looks like?
What happens when day-to-day living intervenes in the early flushes of love? Or when the kids are sick? Or when money is tight? What does love look like then?
One of my neighbors is a woman in her late 80s. She and her husband celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this past fall. Or, more accurately, she celebrated it. He has been in an Alzheimer’s care facility for about 10 years.
Their love story is one that could be a movie. She was a young woman in Japan when the US forces dropped the bombs that ultimately ended World War II. He was a member of the US military, sent to occupy and help restore Japan after the war. Against all odds (and probably her family’s wishes), she and he fell in love. They married and lived in Europe and Asia before settling in California.
Then he got sick. She cared for him for a while, but eventually needed to move him into an Alzheimer’s care facility. And that’s where the depth of her love became apparent.
Every day, without fail, she would go to the care facility. She would bring him homemade meals for lunch and dinner, and sit with him for hours. She would talk with him – even though he no longer recognized her as his wife. She made sure that he was comfortable and well-cared for, and was often rewarded with the joy her husband showed when she walked through the door of his room.
I’m sure that there were days that were difficult for her. She said to me more than once that she had been blessed with a wonderful life, and now, this is what she needed to do for her husband.
He passed away suddenly this week. While my heart goes out to her for her loss, I am also in awe at the love and devotion these two people shared. They were able to look beyond society’s labels of “the enemy” to see the true essence of the person standing in front of them. They cherished their time together and had wonderful adventures – some big and some small. And when one of them got sick, the other did everything in her power to make sure that he was taken care of and still loved – even in the face of a horrible disease that stripped his physical memory of his life with her.
Based on what she has told me, I believe that his heart still knew who she was. Love never truly forgets. It is always there.
And that is what love looks like.