"Happy Valentine's Day, Vera," I said when she answered the phone.
"Oh, I don't celebrate Valentine's Day. Nobody gives me anything anymore." (Well, I just tried to, I thought.) She continued, "My granddaughter brought me a box of chocolates yesterday. I can't believe she forgot I have diabetes. I gave them right back. She made it clear she was too busy to come on the actual holiday." (And you're so lovable, I thought.) "I guess you want the report," she went on. "None of my ladies called me, as usual. I sat here all day long and waited, but they obviously never consider my schedule. I can't deal with their rudeness much longer."
"Happy Valentine's Day, Florence." I said.
"Oh, Dear, what a delightful way to answer the phone!" she laughed. "After such a sweet greeting, I feel bad about what I have to say: I need to be released as a Visiting Teacher. It breaks my heart. I love the women I visit, and we'll stay friends, but I can't have the responsibility of looking out for them anymore." I glanced down at my roster. Florence was 98-years-old. She continued, "I'm almost blind, you know, and it's all I can do to take care of Ray." Ray is her ailing 103-year-old husband. "I'll just serve as their unofficial sister, take a loaf of bread over, bring up their mail, that kind of thing. I just hope I haven't let you down."
"Happy Valentine's Day, Carol," I said.
Carol made room in the elevator and continued another conversation. "You graduated in 1980?" she said to the girl. "I'd lived my whole life by then." "Well, obviously not," I observed. "You're still here." "You know what I mean," replied Carol. "Life hasn't had much to offer since then." "What about your family, the people you love?" I asked. "Oh," she answered, "I gave up on love after my divorce."
"Happy Valentine's Day, Sarah. Are you doing OK?" I asked.
"The last few months have been lovely for me," she said. I strained to hear her soft voice. "Since I broke my hip I've had more time to pray. When I was up and about, there was so much to attend to, I got lazy about some of the important things. Now, I have a chance to think about the people I love and really talk to God about them. I can't serve them dinner anymore, but I serve them just the same."
♥♥♥♥♥How do you define love? Is it one big event? Is it something somebody else does to you? Is it something you receive? Is it something you say? In Sarah's language, love is a verb, not a noun. In Carol's, it's a boat she missed. Love is too often lost in translation.
Love is different things to different people. To Vera it's something she never gets. To Florence it's something she always gives.
Years ago I attended a woman's conference on marriage. Earlier, the speaker had asked all the husbands what they did to say I love you without words. Each wife stood up while her husband's quote was read: "Julia's husband took her to Hawaii for their tenth anniversary." "Nancy's husband sends flowers once a month." "Lydia's husband takes her out to dinner every Friday."
It started feeling competitive. "Karen's husband gave her a new diamond ring for her 40th birthday." "Carma's husband tells her she's beautiful whenever she dresses up." "Marty's husband empties the dishwasher." There were a few giggles, but my eyes filled with tears.
Dee had done all the showy things in one form or another. But the way he routinely said I love you was by emptying the dishwasher—before breakfast, after dinner, while I cooked, while he cooked, at 4 in the morning, on Sunday afternoons . . .and I hadn't been listening. He was saying he loved me all the time!
Love isn't one giant, glittery nugget, and it's not one breathless, passionate moment. And it's certainly not just for sweethearts on Valentine's Day. Love is something you can do, every day.
and even this.
Marta says it perfectly.
♫ When your heart is filled with love,
Others will love you. ♫
What's your love language?