I’ve heard (and offered) countless definitions of love. All are right and all fall short. Love doesn’t give itself over to definition very well and yet you know it when you see it. You know it when you taste it. You know it when you step into it’s atmosphere.
When we realize love is near – life returns to center and becomes holy.
Here is one of my favorite glimpses of love:
By Mike Harden of the Columbus Dispatch
When Frank Steger pushed himself into an upright position in the hospital bed, the heart monitor’s fluid cursive line disintegrated into an erratic scribble. ‘I told the doctor,‘ he said, peeking at the edge of the curtain to make sure that his wife, Mary, was not within earshot, ‘I told him that I felt like I was drowning. He said this is what happens when you have congestive heart disease. I told him I’d rather he throw me off the roof instead.’
Mary returned to the room, drawing a chair to his bedside. ‘Thirsty,’ he complained. She lifted the straw to his lips as he pulled the oxygen mask aside. The medicine made him sick then. She fetched the basin, wrapped a firm arm around his spasm-racked shoulders, mopped the sweat from his forehead. In sickness and in health. They were supposed to be preparing for a Florida vacation, not holding on to each other in a cardiac care unit. ‘Help me sit up,’ he whispered hoarsely.
In the end, love comes down to this; not Clark Gable’s devilish first appraisal of Vivien Leigh, not Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling in the surf, but, ‘Help me sit up.’
A sharp-toothed rain spattered against the windowpane. In the room, a procession of medical courtiers came and went, trading pills for blood and tinkering, ever tinkering, with the buttons and dials controlling the tubes and wires to which their patient was trussed, like some latter-day Gulliver.
One evening Frank was sitting asleep in the chair next to the bed. Mary paused in the waiting room to remove her street shoes and put on her slippers. She did not want to wake him now that sleep was such a rationed luxury. Soundlessly, she slipped into the chair next to his.
In the end, love is not the smoldering glance across the dance floor, the clink of crystal, a leisurely picnic spread upon summer’s clover. It is the squeeze of a hand. I’m here. I’ll be here, no matter how long the fight, even when you want most to close your eyes and be done with it all.
Water? You need water? Here. Drink. Let me straighten your pillow.
‘Help me into bed,’ he said, he who had once been warrior triumphant in the business world. He was tough, demanding, but never as much on others as himself. If you gave him your best, no one could hurt you. If you gave him less, no one could hide you. She had been with him and beside him when the future was golden, beside him when health sent his career into eclipse. ‘I’m thirsty,’ he said. ‘Here,‘ she said, ‘let me get you something.’
Along the road they once traveled so often to visit family, the hearse wound its way past stubbled fields, shuttered roadside markets. The minister, clutching his Bible against his chest as though it was sufficient cloak against the winds whipping across the rural countryside, passed final benediction: ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’ He stooped to pick up his hat as the funeral director placed the folded flag in Mary’s lap.
So when all is said and done, love is not rapture and fire. It’s a hand steadier than one’s own, squeezing harder than a heartbeat. Wine changes back to water. Endearment is exhibited by what once might have been considered insignificant kindnesses, but which, in the end, become the tenderest of ministrations.
On the day after the funeral, trying to busy herself with chores that could easily wait, she plopped the laundry basket down in front of her granddaughter. The child tugged out the end of the sheet her Frank had always held when they did the wash. When the child brought the folded end to meet the corners her grandmother held, she kissed her playfully, just as he had once done. ‘I’m thirsty, Grandma.’ “
“Here, let me get you something.”