“Flowers for my heart with tender words
And a gentle touch that says so much
This is how I’ve heard that love should always be.” *
Again, the commercialized and cloyingly cute messages are filling the in boxes, mail boxes, and trash boxes across the country. More flowers, candy, and cheaply-made cards will be purchased than at any other time of year.
All to express a love that never was and never will be. Love, that is. It will never be love.
Love isn’t flowers, isn’t a close embrace, isn’t sweet nothings whispered into an ear as you dance in the dark. And, it certainly isn’t the thousand dollar diamond necklace slipped around the throat of the picture-perfect beauty queen primping in the mirror before slinking out to a romantic dinner for two.
Our culture lies.
It lies every time an ad suggests that all you need to keep your mate’s love is some pretty new bauble. It lies with each new revelation of ways to keep love fresh in some exotic destination or with an amazing new scent.
I want some new images to exemplify love.
How about a toilet seat? Either up or down will do. Love is him, putting it down for her. It’s her, ignoring the fact that it never gets put down.
Perhaps it could be black olives. He loves them, so she includes them in her recipes. She hates them, so he removes them from the frozen pizza before it goes in the oven.
The list could go on, including not a single item that Hallmark could market. The old toothbrush he used to clean up that ugly old vase that she bought at the second-hand store. The spool of thread she emptied to mend his favorite old work coveralls. The ice scraper he uses on frosty mornings, so she doesn’t have to stand out in the cold and do it herself.
In recent years, I have found some new items that illustrate love. You don’t want to hear about them. They are uncouth and will make you say the word gross as you see them in print. And that’s a shame. Because, you see, the other lie that our culture tells is that your mate will always be attractive and will always be healthy.
He won’t. She won’t.
The bedpan and the urinal spring to mind. Bodily functions become the concern of the one who loves. Embarrassment and squeamishness are abandoned as love does, not what it wishes, but what it must. Not so uncouth, but still not an attractive thought, the fork and spoon push their way into the symbolism, as one mate must feed another. The memory of feeding the cake to each other at the wedding comes back with a rush, and we realize that it is a promise we will keep.
These cloth relics of the past have fallen out of fashion–replaced by the paper tissues we use and crumple into the trash by the thousands, but I like to have one in my back pocket. I would be lost without it.
With the handkerchief we dry the tears of children, and yes, wipe their noses too. I mop my forehead when the perspiration beads and threatens to run down my face. But, all through my life the one thing I have used that square bit of cloth for, more than any other use, has been to wipe away the tears that have come.
When puppy dogs died suddenly, the tears from the children’s eyes were soaked up; those from my own, as well. When the frustrations of financial want were too much, the handkerchief once again dabbed away the tears of fear for the future.
I have seen the tears of spouses as they turned away from the hospital bed their lover lay upon, perhaps for the last time. Other tears have been wiped away as elderly parents departed from this world to a better place; they were wiped away as conversations led to the realization that mental faculties were failing.
Tears fall. Sometimes, they are tears of happiness. More often, as life progresses, they are tears of worry and of sorrow, but always, they are tears of love.
Tears fall. And we wipe them away. For each other.
And, there’s nothing cheap about that.
You can keep your cheap paper valentines. You can keep your sugary-sweet chocolates (well, maybe just one…). You can even keep your diamonds and jewels. They’re cheap too, in a way.
Tears fall. And we stay.
Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.”
(Carl Sandburg ~ American writer/poet ~ 1878-1967)
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelation 21:4 ~ NIV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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* from “How Love Should Be” by Jeremy Michael Lubbock ~ American singer/songwriter