When I scroll down my news feed I notice people post about the elderly and their amazing stories about well, so many topics, really. It ranges from their struggles against loss of their physical strength or defying their strength and even to their reactions to the flux of technology (I’ll never forget that one about that elderly couple trying Skype out!)
One topic that the news never fails to catch are the elderly couples’ everlasting love stories. I don’t ever want to stop them from posting those kinds of stories.
I recently got engaged (yay!). I am now part of the troop of girls who look through other peoples’ wedding albums to track the latest wedding themes trends, colors and gimmicks. These are all so useful and helpful because we’ll only get married once – so every detail has to be taken cared of well. But I thoroughly believe and want my marriage to be more beautiful than my wedding.
So this life event has made me reflect deeply on what the ingredients are to make love… last. I started to ask the following questions: why is the love of elderly couples so charming? What is it about their love stories that make us laugh and cry? Shouldn’t we be shocked by now that these kinds of stories still exist especially since we live in a time when the rate of divorce and silent separations between couples is increasing?
You know what I really wish for, a blog, a magazine or a book about the anatomy and difficulty of engaged life – like a what to talk about while engaged or the top five things to prepare for for marriage. Things like that.
But I can understand why it doesn’t exist. Simply, it’s because couples all over world are already living as if they were married. They say it’s to see the compatibility – to have a “trial run.” See that’s when I think – what are we, CARS? We need to be test ran?
But we aren’t made that way.
Test runs are only for things that are meant to break, fall apart and things meant to be replaced. That’s the basic reason why trials for couples who are thinking of getting married do NOT make any sense! It just makes me so sad that people nowadays think of their love as that – something that needs to be “tried and tested” until they can be sure.
Because there have been a good amount of stories being shared out there (including the ones we hear from our friends) about couples who have been together for 50 years and beyond, here’s my attempt to come up with a list of ingredients (qualities) to maybe work for during the engaged period to that everlasting love:
INGREDIENTS FOR ETERNAL LOVE
INGREDIENT #1: I believe that’s the first quality an old love has is that once they’ve chosen – they never look back. They seem that they internally or externally acknowledge and decide that they will continuously renew that commitment to never look back in the smallest ways. Some examples include thinking “I respect him/her, I do this for him/her…” and by texting a simple “Thank you for doing ____ for me, you really are so sweet.” to that loved one when he/she showed an act of service to a family member.
There are a whole lot more that I can enumerate. Our lives are pretty much made up of these tiny things just as how individual words compose a paragraph.
To back this up, I quote one of my favorite soon-to-be saint Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
I think that that leaves us to INGREDIENT #2: CREATIVITY!
We are so blessed to be human. To be able to read these words and absorb it, imagine and remember relatives who have these qualities then feel a bit warmer inside then, you’ve GOT to be human. (Hello there!)
I just think creativity in a relationship – in love is so important because living with another person, anyone is bound to know the other person inside-out. Once that happens, it’s so easy to fall into the temptation of considering life at home as a draggy routine. I’m pretty sure it becomes boring if it’s thought of that way so putting a bit of creativity in how to express say a request. I love it when parents borrow the lingo of their kids and they use it in the most awkward way! It’s such a great way for couples to live pleasantly together.
I feel particularly blessed to be a Filipina. It’s in our culture to be very good at adding that pinch of humor at any given situation.
During the incredibly bad storm (Habagat Maring) that we experienced a couple of weeks ago, many streets in our congested cities were flooded up to the knee and up! My family and I were lucky enough to be dry so I tried to look for ways to help while I had access to wifi. I stumbled upon a site that showed photos of people who used this an opportunity to cheer up those who might be depressed by the situation. Just for fun here’s a link of the funny memes Filipinos came up with to cope with the Habagat Maring Floods.
In a relationship, this kind of quality of putting humor is not without a lot of prudence too. It’s important to know know if it’s proper to be humorous or if it will offend anyone in the said situation.
Other than being creative in being humorous, there are a million ways to be creative in showing your love. I thoroughly believe this ranks higher than physical affection.
To give an idea of what I’m talking about, I was particularly touched by this 96 year old man, Fred Stobaugh’s story. A month after his wife passed away, he wrote a song about her and their time spent together for an online contest. Although his entry didn’t technically qualify to be part of the contest, the studio decided to produce the song for him. It came out beautifully. For the full story, check out this video.
Anyway, when I was watching this video I couldn’t help but understand the kind of person he is. He is a mighty simple and sincere man. When the studio called him up to tell him that they would be producing the song he wrote for him, he immediately sounded concerned saying: “How can that be… I don’t think I can afford that, I have no money.” He is also the kind of man who seems to only hold onto the good memories which I think is one of the main reasons why he and his wife were privileged to live until ninety years old. The last thing he said in the video was marked with an expression of bittersweet shock: “It was a wonderful 75 years… kinda unreal. But it was real. It was real.” You could see by the way he was staring that he was looking at the eyes behind his eyes – and he watched the memories there and he felt helpless and sadness because he knew he couldn’t have more of them with her anymore…
A wonderful 75 years of marriage was surely not without a lot of pain.
Love is not without pain! It’s when going deep into the truth of everyday life, when dealing with the significant other in both petty and big things to knowing the truth of what it means to love unconditionally that pain is never excluded. In fact, the joys become a lot sweeter because of the deep pain that situations initially cause that are gotten through together.
INGREDIENT #3: It’s the MUTUAL AND UNTIRING SELF-SACRIFICE that each person in the couple readily gives that sustains the relationship until the end.
I just have three to share about this.
To know what matters… here is an anecdote a good friend of mine shared on Facebook just a couple of days ago:
Spent today with Chinese elders… One lady in particular amused me: *she’s old and spoke in Chinese*
Rich?! Who cares about being rich? As long as you live a life that makes you happy, then you are rich! When my eldest son was born, all we could give him was Carnation milk! A little Carnation, mix it with water! Pity! Sometimes, we didn’t always have food, so what did we do?! Did I fight with my husband?! No! I just looked at him and I was happy. We loved each other. He worked hard, and that’s why I didn’t mind the money. Money does not matter. You think money matters? No. Money does not buy you over 60 years of marriage, LOVE does.
I just love how in this story the lady was just so content. She is happy despite their sometimes helpless situations. What I love about her is that she just supported her husband and believed in the quality that he possesses which is his being a hard worker. Then she closed the story with a bam: 60 years of marriage is not because of money but because of love.
Here is another story:
Bill Forward takes care of his wife Glad everyday as she suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Another studio made a short film about this couple who continually live their lives together despite his wife’s disease. In the video, Bill describes his and their love. (This still brings me to tears:)
I am determined to care for her every need… every need. You see God loves us so unconditionally and I understand that God has put His love in my heart and because I realized how much God has loved me, that too, is how I can love my lovely wife.
She has done so much for me over all of these years. Now she can’t but I can and I can return her love – it’s a love that – well, to me I can do everything for her.
This man is so humble and so grateful that he does not have it in him to believe at all that love could possibly come from him. The way he put his explanation together “I believe God has put His love in me – that is the way I love my wife…” WORD. SERIOUSLY. It makes you think, where does my love come from?
These are the essential ingredients I’ve synthesized from the stories I have read and the advise that I’ve gathered.
One thing that really amazes me is the fact that young people want a love like this so much! The very fact that they post about it on Facebook and place a little caption before it just like these: How heartwarming or THIS still exists or HOPE 🙂 – pretty much means that they want this kind of love and are even a bit shocked and desensitized from seeing and hearing about ridiculous relationships that end in ridiculous ways!
As I said in the beginning of this post, we aren’t made to be “tried and tested” to get married. We don’t need to be in a relationship that mimics a marriage where the couple engages in premarital sex and lives together under the same roof when both of them think there is still that probability to split up. It’s either we were made to be married to stick it out for love or not – where there’s the beautiful vocation to be celibate.
Now here’s my BASE FOR AN ETERNAL LOVE:
BE WHAT YOU WANT YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO BE: I think that there is a need to live life by the virtues we want our future relationship to have. In short, if we want our future relationship to be pure – BE pure, to be compassionate – BE compassionate, to be gracious and understanding – BE gracious and understanding. A relationship can’t have those if the people who are in the relationship don’t even show a glimpse of those virtues in how they are!
ASSESS YOURSELF: We also have to be the kind of people we want our future spouses to be proud of or to want take care of. We have to start asking ourselves the questions: Will this attitude repel the person I will live with for the rest of my life? Will this habit affect that relationship? Is this already affecting my relationships at work and in my family?
KNOW WHAT LOVE IS AND LIVE IT: Love is an intelligent willingness to surrender self-will, to make sacrifices, to place fidelity, charity and duty above feelings, in behalf of a person whom one has found to be a good companion, a sturdy character and a believer in the same purposes of life and marriage as oneself.
Of course, it’s so much easier said than done.
Likewise it’s way better to see it to believe it.
That’s why another reason why we, Filipinos, are so blessed is because a wonderful couple who are world renowned chastity speakers: Jason and Crystalina Evert will be coming here in just a few days to give a series of talks on chastity, relationships, real love etc. They will have different talks for different groups of people ranging from high school and college students, educators and parents and thankfully enough even to young professionals.
When Jason Evert came a few years back, I had the privilege to be an usher in their college students event but because I was running around I couldn’t quite absorb the stories he was sharing so well but when I did have the chance I remember seriously welling up in tears.
What is so unique about them is because they walk the talk. They have an incredible testimony about real love and as I said, you better see it to believe it!
Since they’re coming really soon, I highly suggest EVERYONE to attend at least one of these events who knows what you might find out about yourself there.
Keep love real, folks,