CAREGIVING, Stories from a Caregiver
Speaking of Love
“This series of short stories and the accompanying original art were created to document and share my journey as a dementia caregiver. If you are caring for a loved one who is challenged by Alzheimer’s or another dementia, may they resonate with you while seeking meaning in your caregiving work and a better, brighter and healthier future. If this is your first time stopping by, I recommend starting from the beginning with Story #1: A Few Things I’ve Learned.”
Stories from a Caregiver: Love, Resiliency, and Renewal
Story #14: Speaking of Love
By: Gerald Lloyd Wood
If you were asked what love is, how would you answer? Without a doubt, love embodies different meanings to different people. So, where should we begin? It takes courage to explore such an important topic for fear of being ridiculed. A safe place to start might be the Holy Bible which addresses the universal importance of love above all else in “1 Corinthians 13:13.” This frequently quoted biblical passage reads, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”p.784 A Bedrock of Judeo-Christian values, charity is used interchangeably with love throughout the scriptures.
Other thoughtful sources are the words of intellectuals who captured the essence of love in their writing. The Austrian psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, called love “the final wisdom.” He said; “Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved.” In the same passage, he also said, “The truth—that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which people can aspire.”pp.100-101
Thus, the magnitude of the meaning of love may best be explained by what each of us does and feels. Action verbs that illustrate love include but are not limited to, touching, feeling, affirming, serving, giving, sharing, honoring, respecting and accepting. Love can also be a noun, an adjective and an adverb. Certainly, it is all of these intangibles that not only are felt but also are difficult to explain. Undeniably, we know when love is experienced because it typically turns our lives upside down.
Less often considered is grief, proof positive of love lost. Sobbing, tears, wailing and thrashing are outward manifestations of deeply felt heartbrokenness, sadness, separation and downright deep sorrow. The intensity of such sorrowful emotions may equal, or even exceed, the joyfulness of giving, receiving and sharing love. In human terms, such feelings that emanate from the depth of one’s soul have the rare weight of a lifetime of spiritual experiences. In this context, agape, (the love of God for humankind) can be a source of hope.
In a letter to a friend who had lost a son, Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, mentioned his own daughter’s death and noted, “Although we know after such a loss the acute state of mourning will subside, we also know we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else. And this is how it should be. It is the only way of perpetuating that love which we do not want to relinquish.”p.97
We should all be so lucky to find a romantic connection that encompasses mutual affection, deeply felt passion and erotic love. Hence, lifelong unions of couples, regardless of convention, are built upon and sustained by a broad foundation of behaviors including many more than those mentioned here.
Quite simply, loving is the essence of living.
© 2022 Gerald Lloyd Wood. All rights reserved. This story and accompanying art are used with permission of the author.
Boss, Pauline, Ph.D. The Myth of Closure. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2022. (Frankl quotes on page 100-101from Frankl, V. (2006) Man’s search for meaning. Beacon Press (Original English publication, 1959); p37-38. Freud quote on page 97 from Freud, S. (1960) Letter to Binswanger (letter 239). In E. L. Freud (Ed.), Letters to Sigmund Freud. Basic Books.) 1 Corinthians 13:13, King James Version of the Holy Bible. Nashville: The Southwestern Company, 1962.
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Finding Meaning and Hope is a free program for family caregivers based on the book, Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope while Coping with Stress and Grief by Dr. Pauline Boss. This which features videos with caregivers like Gerald and facilitator guided discussions.