Our world seems to lack an understanding of what true love really is. It is not physical attraction, romance, dating, flowers, or big weddings, but something much, much deeper.
As a young boy, sitting near the front of the chapel in Tucson AZ, I remembered my grandfather as I watched as the procession pass by his casket.
He was a loving, hard-working man, and my memories of him placing me on a rug draped over a saddle-shaped limb of the large mesquite tree in their front yard, and giving me a horsey-ride by shaking the limb is one of my fondest memories. I remember him taking me up the road to feed sugar cubes to a horse, and the times we children would chase lizards and horny-toads around the property, we could see the stone-shaped molds that grandpa used to form the cement blocks to expand their modest one-bedroom home.
His mismatched legs caused him to always stand leaning to one side, and his small crown of hair wrapped around an otherwise bald head. Working for the railroad, his salary was small, but his compassionate generosity made it seem smaller still.
My grandpa also had a silly side; leaving small square patches of old paint showing so we could always see what color a room used to be. Sometimes he would take out his false teeth and pretend to speak with them in his hand as a ventriloquist might do. If I did something wrong, he would take my hand and then slap his own hand instead of mine.
As I sat in the funeral viewing, I watched as my grandmother approached the casket.
In contrast to my grandfather, my grandmother was a “proper” German woman from Chicago, with short, silvery-white hair, and horn-rimmed glasses. To me, she seemed always concerned with our posture, and the proper etiquette for eating dinner. Forced to drop out of high school to help with the family mortgage, what she lacked in schooling; she more than excelled in her own studies. Trained as a stenographer, she was proud of her organizational and secretarial skills. A very forward-looking individual, she embraced technological advancement. Bilingual, her English was impeccable. One would have assumed she had a college degree.
If my Grandma and Grandpa were in today’s world, I doubt a dating site would have paired them. They seemed as opposite as one could imagine. What he lacked in fiscal savvy, she lacked in cooking skills. Her famous black beans usually started out as green beans. He lacked the refinement she seemed to expect in others, but despite all their differences, they shared a deep love for God, and for each other, and this would be evidenced in the final years of his life.
Due to a series of strokes, Grandpa was left paralyzed on his entire left side. Unable to care for himself, his stint in a nursing home was quickly ended when Grandma brought him back home. She cared for him for 3 years with only occasional assistance; a ninety pound woman doing everything for someone twice her size. I recall her routinely placing him in a lift to move him from room to room, so he would not be left in bed. To me, it seemed tortuous work, but I admired my grandma for her dedication. When my grandpa died, there were tears, but also relief. He could now rest from his paralysis and endless hiccups, and grandma could also rest.
Sitting in the funeral chapel however, I watched this noble woman stop at the casket, remove her glasses, bend down and kiss his cold lips. I couldn’t believe it! How could anyone do such a gross thing?! But what I thought was gross that day, I understood in later years. She did not care for him out of obligation, but out of a deep love for him. This was not a time of torture, but a special time they shared.
Her kiss explained it all.
To quote from 1 Corinthians 13:
Love…rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
You see? Love is not physical attraction, romance, dating, flowers, or big weddings. Love is a determination, a commitment, a willing sacrifice. It is only through adversity that we can see the depth of true love.
This relationship was real. This was love…lived.