My firstborn niece got married on Saturday. She was absolutely gorgeous – in the prime of her youth and beauty, glowing and happy among her friends, her family, and her new husband.
I had taken a number of pictures that day, capturing as many candid moments as I could. Among the photos I took was one of my parents. I asked them to lean together for the picture and Dad leaned in to kiss Mom. I find I am loving the juxtaposition of young love as mirrored in the faces of Sarah and Mike, and the love of my parents 54 years into their marriage.
It is so much easier to love when one is young and beautiful, in his or her sexual prime, and not yet jaded by a life filled with chores and responsibilities, poor health and other life challenges. How amazing to also see the love of people who are seventy-eight and eighty years old, wrinkled and overweight, losing hair, losing their sense of hearing, losing their mental faculties, losing their sexual abilities, and yet still loving one another. Now that is love.
Both kinds of love are to be celebrated. Young love is one of the great joys of life. Most of us over the age of thirty remember the exhilaration of falling in love, of hungering to be in the presence of our beloved. When we are very, very, very blessed, we know this same love and hunger when we are older, as well.
When I had moved out of state a number of years ago, I was under the impression that my father had become disillusioned with my mother who was no longer the great beauty she’d been in her twenties. Four years later, I was blessed to learn that his love for her was still very much intact. I had returned home for a visit and was present when Mom was exhibiting signs of a heart attack. She hates the hospital and was insisting we not call an ambulance and that she would refuse to go to the emergency room. Dad was outside at the time and I went to him and said, “Dad, I think Mom’s having a heart attack and she doesn’t want to go to the hospital.” I will never forget the panicked look on his face as he began to run to the house. He didn’t want to lose his beloved Barbara. (Her family doctor convinced her to go to the hospital and she did recover.)
Over the course of the next several years, I was blessed to see many, many examples of love still very much alive between my parents. It wasn’t a perfect love. They both get frustrated and impatient with the other at times. They certainly have their squabbles. And yet if they are long away from one another, they get worried and anxious to return. They still frequently give each other kisses. They still spend time together. How beautiful to witness a love that prevails – even through the loss of physical beauty, the loss of sexual ability, the loss of memory, and the diminishment of cognitive function.
Sarah and Mike, I hope you retain all your beauty and all your abilities and faculties and I hope your love not only endures, but grows stronger and deeper through the years. May you have great happiness together. May you appreciate and love one another always – beauty and flaws and all.
Long live love!