A Tale of Two Loves

If you haven’t read my January post, I’m choosing a new word every month for 2023 to explore through the lenses of the arts, family, wellness and wonder. I tried resisting the expected theme for February because it will be shouted from every corner and screen and store. But, after thinking about it for a while, and considering the recent political misuse of the words, love and hate, I thought I’d take a more honest look at love than what the loudest voices tell us. So here I bring you two true stories of love.

For those not familiar, I work part time at a retirement resort. Years ago, a couple from the WW II Generation came to live several apartments away from my desk. The man, O, had been a successful rancher. His once-baked skin and wiry body told everyone how hard he had worked. His wife, K, also worked hard, but from what I understand, served quite a bit of time in the kitchen feeding the men. She became ill in her later years, and was forced to slow down. They had to leave their ranch and move into a place where they didn’t have to work so hard at their day-to-day life. O, still sound in body and mind, in order to care for his wife, traded in his manly man spurs for an apron.

I didn’t get to know K very well—she stayed in her apartment most of the time, or at least the time I worked during the swing shift. But O, a product of a time where gender roles were set in stone, gave up his tough cowboy status for that of a caregiver. I can’t imagine it was easy for either of them. No one wants to be a burden, and no one wants to exchange their heroic storybook reputation for the role of what cultural assignments at that time called the duties of the “weaker”sex (Don’t get me started on the strength it takes to be a mother).

But he did it, and managed to keep a smile on his face. One of my favorite memories is when he shared with me a recipe for the perfect biscuits. He sacrificially loved his wife. It wasn’t his cowboy years that made him a man among men. It was the time he hefted that cross upon his shoulders and cared for his wife in the ways she used to care for others.

My second story brings us H and A.

H used to come out late at night. He was quiet and didn’t talk much to those of us at the desk, but he was friendly enough, and regularly carried his telescope outside to gaze at the stars. He was very patient with all the times we had to check on him after receiving complaints about “some strange man sitting outside in the dark.” Something about his bearing makes me think he’s of the intellectual variety. I don’t know what H or A’s earlier life consisted of, but everyone knows that H loves the stars.

It seemed that he declined fairly quickly, in body and mind. Recently, he had to move over to our unit for people with failing memories. A, as independent as she still is, chose to move with him into a much smaller, controlled, locked down area of our building.

I had never seen her join him on his starlit excursions before, but being the faithful leader that she is, she sometimes brings him through the building for walks after dark where large windows with great views are plentiful. We don’t normally see those suffering with memory loss able to venture out very far at night, but I would like to ask A sometime why she does it. Is it because it’s less busy then and easier for him to balance with his walker, or is she honoring his love for a good nightscape? Maybe both.

I don’t know who wore the jeans and who wore the slacks in their more active years, or if they are even each other’s first or second loves, but every so often, A patiently walks him around when the stars have winked to life. Even when she doesn’t realize she’s seen, I’ve heard kindness come out of her in spades.

It’s not easy for many women to become the protector of her husband. While women protect their children and, often, themselves (especially modern women), they don’t normally need to protect their husbands. But A has stepped into that role, as well as being his provider and gateway to his view of the night sky. And another thing—not every partner sticks around when their loved one begins to fade away. But A, in her great sacrifice and with tremendous grace, has heaved her cross over her stately shoulders for the love of her husband. She is a woman among women.

I find it a great privilege to be able to witness how love continues into old age, especially with our current society being “in it” for quick pleasures and selfish ambitions, but ignorant—or just unwilling to see—what that finish line will look like. Love is sacrifice, no matter what kind of relationship it is. It’s a continuously active, difficult journey through learning to be unselfish and gaining perspective for the good of all. It’s a word. An action. It’s joy and pain wrapped up in a weathered bow. It’s following Christ’s example to the cross, where it reaches so far into the light it will pour out into every generation until the end of the age.

Feel free to tell us your stories of love in the comments below.

Follow me on IG and facebook for quick snapshots of love throughout February.

For the Invisibles

I’m at work after all the experts have gone home and the sun is making its final burn west when we Invisibles take the reins. We answer phones when nightly needs approach, we direct when the directors have retired for the day, we fix what we can when the fixers have clocked out, or make notes for their next shift.

Those of us who look young enough for college are assumed to be students, those of us who have more than a few laugh lines are assumed to be retired and working for something to do, and those, like me, who are somewhere in the middle, well….I get all kinds of reactions, but that’s beside the point. Only a few know I’m a struggling Author, but it doesn’t really matter here. I’m me to those who are interested, to others, I’m one of the Invisibles.

I leave my desk and accidentally fix a resident’s TV. I’m not sure how I did it, but I’m grateful God directed my hand because her TV is her only companion now. Her friend to eat dinner with and a distraction from the empty chair beside her. It’s a priority of the heart.

I make sure exterior doors are locked and that no one has fallen in the park.

I get called to a handicapped woman’s apartment—she was left with only two reliable words after she suffered a stroke: Me here.
“Me here,” she says as she leads me to the room that contains her problem. “Me here,” as she points to her computer.
“Me here,” as she directs me to her CPU that holds her disc captive. I pull it out and place it in its case that’s waiting on her desk. Photos of her family decorate the top, and she smiles huge when I hand it to her. She nods her head, holding it close to her body.

I wheel her back out of the tight storage room where she keeps her computer in and lean down, my hand on her arm, my eyes level with hers so she knows I see her.

“Me here,” she says as she places her palm on the side of my face.

“You’re welcome,” I say, my heart filling up.

As I turn to go, her mouth unleashes a few rare words. “Thank you.”
I smile again, one Invisible to another, and walk back to my desk feeling more successful than anything the Visible world has to offer.

 

I ponder her words, and wonder how many of us have lifted our heads to the sky and whispered, “I’m here. See me.”

 

“Beloved, there is no such thing as obscurity to Christ Jesus. The eyes of El Roi (‘the God who sees me Gen. 16:13-19) gaze approvingly upon every effort you make and every ounce of faith you exercise in Jesus’ name. You have not been forgotten! You have no idea what may lie ahead! No doubt remains in my mind that God spent this time testing and proving John’s character so that he could be trusted with the greatest revelation (Sherry’s note: the author is talking about the time period when John, the one Jesus loved, had little mention in the Bible while Paul and Peter took stage after Christ’s crucifixion). The answers God is willing to give us in our tomorrows flow from our faithfulness when we have none today.” Beth Moore in The Beloved Disciple