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Columns

I've Been Thinking: Living life and finding the meaning of love

With Valentine’s Day just a week away I‘ve been thinking about love. When did I first understand the meaning of love?

My first encounter of love, like almost everyone, was the love given to me by my parents. However it had no name then and it was certainly not anything I understood. It was simply something expected and demanded by me first as an infant and then as a toddler.

By the time I was eight, I discovered a feeling that I was sure was love – the feeling I felt for the puppy I was given as a Christmas present that year. What I felt for my puppy, Buddy, when he chewed up my Barbie doll and peed on my jacket was definitely not love though.

The first time I seriously thought about the meaning of love was as a teenager and it didn’t have anything to do with parents or puppies. I wanted to be loved – by a boy. He would think I was pretty, date me, give me his class ring and then we would go steady. That was what I understood love to be at 16. By the time I was engaged, love, to my fiance and me, had become caring for each other far beyond the passion we felt. I could even let him see me without makeup. Love was simple back then.

Once we married and our first child arrived, love’s definition changed completely. At first it meant being tired all the time because taking care of a baby is more than an eight hour a day job, but even though I was tired, I did it.  That was definitely love. Then love became having cartoons on the TV a good part of day and putting away all the lovely house decorations that might get broken as the little one you loved explored the big new world.

My husband also discovered a new meaning of love – working overtime whenever possible during the week, and on weekends doing home repair side jobs. That was love in action. In spite of the demands associated with having small children, there were still romantic moments that brought about more children to love – at least until they got to be teenagers.

The love I felt for my teenagers at various times dwarfed to no more than not giving into the desire to kill them. Most parents of teens will understand this, I think. Seeing what I jokingly called my “rotten teenagers” become virtuous adults truly brought feelings of pride and love to my heart. Our children eventually left home to begin lives of their own, but the love their dad and I shared with them continued and expanded as grandchildren entered the picture.

In addition to the love within a family, love is visible all around us: neighbor helping neighbor; fireman or policeman saving a life; caring people giving time, life’s necessities or money to help those less fortunate; kind strangers rushing to aid accident victims, and people putting themselves in harm’s way to protect or aid a total stranger.

I could go on and on, but the question remains, when did I first understand the meaning of love? For me there was no first moment. Love, in my life, has been an evolution. No single event gave me insight into a complete definition. I’m sure there are aspects of love I have not encountered yet, and some I may never encounter. What I do know of the meaning of love comes from the life I have led, and, so far, my understanding of love is this. It is the most beautiful thing in the world. It is all good, all caring, all selfless, and it comes from God. That’s what I understand about love right now, and I’m still learning.

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