….a box of your favourite chocolates?
….a candlelit dinner?
….an expensive gift?
….an exciting weekend away?
Any or all of these things could be expressions of love – and each of us will interpret them in different ways. This week I was reminded of The Five Love Languages written by Gary Chapman in which the author uses the metaphor of language to describe how we all express and receive love in different ways: words of affirmation; quality time; gifts; physical touch; acts of service. It is worth reading and thinking about. I have friends who, after 30 years of marriage, discovered that they didn’t fully understand one another’s love language. Learning to speak your loved one’s love language can only strengthen your relationship.
But today I saw love in action. I was visiting my dad in the nursing home and he was having a bad day. He didn’t know where he was; he didn’t know how he was going to get ‘home’; he didn’t know who would take him to dinner; he didn’t know how he would get back from dinner; he didn’t know how he would find the lounge again, or his bedroom, or his home. Time and time again I explained that he lives there now and that he has nothing to worry about, that a nurse will always take him to where he needs to be. But no amount of reassurance had any effect. He was becoming more and more agitated and I was exhausted. My husband arrived to pick me up – and he took over. Patiently he explained over and over again to my dad that there was nothing to worry about. It still didn’t sink in and we had to wait and take him to the dining room ourselves. But, as I watched and listened, I thought that 30 years ago, as we celebrated St. Valentine’s Day romantically and looked forward to being engaged and then married, we couldn’t have foreseen the twists and turns of our lives. We couldn’t have predicted that today we would have been sitting in a nursing home trying to comfort my dad.
Friends of ours have spent a large part of St Valentine’s Day – and of the past 14 days – in hospital with their new baby. She was to come home to join her big sister a few days after she was born but has been kept in hospital because of medical problems. When they promised to love one another ‘in sickness and in health’, they couldn’t have imagined that their lives would include the death of their first baby, then a healthy second baby, followed by a third baby now who has had these health problems. But their love for each other is shining through, brighter and stronger, as they face these challenges together.
But that’s what love is – sharing the burden, doing the difficult thing, taking over when the other is tired, putting the other first. Perhaps the word ‘sacrifice’ is closer to what love really means than red roses or dark chocolates. Doesn’t the Bible say ‘Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends’?
I love my red rose and I will enjoy my Valentine chocolates – but I loved what I saw today in the nursing home.