We’ve really been expanding our definition of love in the past years. Love is no longer strictly a romantic thing, or an emotion shared between two people. Love in the new age is the word used to describe a positive energy that is shifting the whole planet, the unlimited potential streamed from the universe.
Yet love is still this:
Today I heard that a member of our community passed away, at a ripe old age indeed. I immediately thought of his wife, a feisty woman who I aspire to emulate when I grow to such a maturity. Let’s call them Fred and Gloria.
Fred had spent a long time dying. Indeed, he probably could have died months ago, but the general feeling was he wasn’t going to leave Gloria. He and Gloria had known each other since they were eight years old. They were married for over 60 years. Their devotion to each other was quiet, constant and unassuming.
Fred was an eccentric war veteran who had served in WWII and Korea. His time in warzones had given him a dark, wry sense of humour which he carried the rest of his life, and applied to his own failing body as he hovered on the threshold of death. I never saw Gloria sad, in all the time she spent with Fred in the hospital. Perhaps she just didn’t want us to feel sorry for her, or maybe she was simply focusing on the positive, every moment she had with Fred.
Eventually, the couple moved into assisted living, and just after they got settled and Gloria declared she liked the place, that she was making friends and enjoyed the social life – Fred let go and died. Many people think he was just hanging on long enough to make sure Gloria would be alright when he left.
It reminds me of my own grandfather, who spent a year in apparent preparation for his death without even knowing it. He sold the house he and my grandmother had lived in for decades – he sold it at a loss to my cousin and his wife. That was out of character for Grandpa, but he seemed to want to get out of there.
He bought a new house just around the corner from my mother, so that she could provide care and company for Grandma. He fixed up the kitchen to her liking – in his 80s he was still doing all the work of a young man, even though he’d get angry and frustrated with his body which got tired and sore too quickly.
Shortly after the new house was settled, Grandpa was admitted to the hospital with back pain, and he died two weeks later of cancer. It was a shock and a blessing to have him go so quickly.
The night he died, only one of his daughters was present. Where was everyone else? At the freaking circus – grandpa had bought tickets for all the grandkids to go the circus, he’d purchased the tickets a month before. No one would dare *not* go, and so grandpa died in peace, having occupied his family with better activities than sitting at the beside of a dying man.
I never felt that close to my grandfather, but it’s funny – after he died I sense him around me all the time. I appreciate his grounded, matter-of-fact energy and his assistance with financial management. Every once in a while I hear him whisper “bullshit!” and smell sawdust. It’s so strange – I kind of love him more, now that he’s dead. I feel like we have a relationship now, or I understand him or something…
Which is I guess what death gives our life: context. And when you look back on your own life, or the life of a loved one, what do you see? What do people talk about at funerals?
Usually, it’s the love. They talk about the kindnesses extended, the tender moments. Although my grandparents marriage was far from idyllic, they too were married over 60 years and their devotion to each other evident in their actions, if not their words.
Love is a funny thing.