L-O-V-E: Four simple letters when strung together means fulfillment, heartache, joy, sadness, good times, difficult times, the essence of life itself. From the moment we are born, we experience this strong emotion directed solely at us. As we grow and develop, we learn how to express and direct this emotion to others.
There are many sources that vie for our attention and want to define for us what true love is all about. Prominent among these is the media. The media bombards us with messages that true love only cares about the physical: sex, sexiness, impeccable bodies, drop dead beauty. And consumerism mirrors those messages, enticing us to lose those last few pounds, surgery away those physical imperfections, paint over natural beauty, drop the necklines and shorten the skirts. We are promised if we prioritize and succumb to these pursuits, we will then be worthy to attract true love. In actuality, what is achieved is temporary and false. For true love does not rely solely on the physical. Physical attraction is important in starting and maintaining the flame of love. But true love needs more than a physical obsession to endure the ups and downs of every day life. True love requires emotional and spiritual components as well. Fidelity, respect, compassion, patience, endurance, sacrifice — these are the objects that supply the bedrock for the foundation of true — and lasting –love.
My in-laws, Betty and Russell Payzant, exemplify the essence of true love. Born during the Great Depression, married during World War II, raised a family during the social upheaval of the ’60’s, they have endured the turbulence swirling around them and forged a love to last a lifetime. Their lives were not glamorous and they were never rich by the world’s standards; they lived pay check to pay check, even at one time, losing everything and having to start from the bottom when most of their peers were enjoying world travels and retirement benefits. Yet, no matter what life threw at them, the one constant in their lives was the love they had for each other. A love not built on the trappings of media bliss but one built on real, deep down, hard core devotion created from a lifetime of service.
Recently, Betty celebrated her 89th birthday. After almost 69 years of marriage, Russell, 92 years young, had bestowed just about every birthday gift imaginable to Betty. This year, he decided on a personal gesture that would express his complete and utter gratitude to Betty for sharing their life together. He rehearsed his gift for weeks, perfecting every aspect. When the big day arrived, after the packages from friends and family were opened, after the cake was served, Russell approached Betty, got down on one knee, and presented his gift: