I believe in true love.
Even when faced with one failed romantic relationship after another, I believed in true love. Cynics will tell you that there is no such thing, that it’s all hormonal. Anyone who says that has never witnessed it.
My great-grandparents were married in 1906 at the age of 18. They had six children. In the great flu pandemic of 1917-1918, they lost a ten month-old daughter. The loss of a child would be enough to destroy many marriages, but they clung to each other, grieved together and let their unshakeable faith in God carry them through. When the Great Depression hit, they pulled together as a family. Grown children working with their parents, pooling resources so the entire family survived.
When World War II came, again, they pulled together, facing the crisis as a family. My great-grandfather stood in as patriarch for his grandchildren whose own fathers were far from home fighting in places they couldn’t even pronounce. My great-grandmother soothed hurts, made lunches, and oversaw homework while her daughters worked at the mills to keep them going while their husbands were gone.
Many grandparents would have been annoyed to find themselves so inconvenienced. Many times I have heard grandparents complain “I’ve raised my kids. I’ve done my time. I’m not raising my grandkids.” My great-grandparents surely felt the burden, yet they never complained. They did it because it needed to be done. They did it because they loved their children and their grandchildren. Most of all they did it because they loved each other.
Their 50th wedding anniversary came with great fanfare in the midst of Eisenhower’s tenure as president and the prosperous 1950’s. Their marriage, which began when man had taken his first tentative flights on windswept dunes in North Carolina, continued through into the jet age and even into the space age. My great-grandparents celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary the year my frail little great-grandmother finally laid down her burden and went to be with the Lord and the baby she’d lost and mourned for sixty years.
My great-grandfather spoke of their last conversation with a sad smile on his face. He told us that he’d climbed into bed beside her and pulled her into his arms, as much to comfort her as to try to hold on to her for just a little while longer, I suppose. Snuggled together, both frail with their advanced years, they bent their heads together and spoke softly of all they had experienced together in their lives, how their lives had been filled with so much love and joy and how they had faced adversity hand in hand, each finding strength in the other and in their relationship with God.
“I get to go be with my baby now,” she said softly.
He nodded and murmured his agreement. Then he cleared his throat. “You know, if I had it to do all over again, I’d do it just the same,” he said.
She turned her blue eyes up to him and smiled. “I would too,” she said. Closing her eyes, she lay back on her pillow and drifted off into that eternal sleep.
I know that for the rest of his life, he would wake up calling her name, looking for her, missing her. When he passed away peacefully in his sleep seven years later, I have no doubt that he knew he was going to see her again and that was why he had a smile on his face.
You see, I’ve seen true love. I know what it looks like. I know that it’s God’s gift to us. It is without condition, and it is forever. True love is patient, it is polite, it is considerate of the feelings of others. True love is generous, and it puts the needs of others ahead of its own. True love is tender and fierce, protective, supportive and nurturing. True love puts up with a lot knowing that your partner is doing the same.
I also know that you won’t find true love unless and until you are willing to submit yourself to true love and show these traits yourself. Once you open yourself up to it, you see it everywhere and wonder how you could have missed it before.
I know true love exists. I’m one of those who has been blessed to find it. I have no doubt that at the end of my life or his, my husband and I will be there, heads bent together, looking back on our shared adventure willing to do it all over again.