Bedpans and Handkerchiefs

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. *

I’ve been thinking about love recently.  You may be surprised at what I’ve decided.

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.

I believe that the one item I would chose to symbolize love most is nothing more than a simple handkerchief.

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.  I still like to have one in my back pocket and would be lost without it.

With the handkerchief we clean the hands 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 conversations led to the realization that mental faculties were failing, and then again as elderly parents departed from this world to a better place.

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.

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. 2015. All Rights Reserved.


* from How Love Should Be by Jeremy Michael Lubbock ~ American singer/songwriter

8 thoughts on “Bedpans and Handkerchiefs

    1. Thanks for your comment and your request to re-post this, Nancy. I’d be happy for you to do that (with copyright line intact). I would be delighted if others could be encouraged as they live out their love. Blessings!

  1. How REAL this is. My family & I are right in the middle of this…I am on Hospice and I am SO AWARE my husband is truly an example of God’s love for me because he stays with me through this. “This” isn’t pretty or easy. But it sure is real.

    1. Oh Donna. That’s a place in life none of us want to be, but what a blessing to have a mate who lives out the love you have declared for each other. I pray also for God to be very real to you and to give you His joy in all things! Blessings.

  2. Paul, I found your lovely blog because I saw Mary had highlighted it on the Christian Poets and Writers blog which I mostly see on the Networked blogs feed. I love the realism in this post and the way love is distilled into a giving and a devotion way beyond fripperies and fancy words. As an ex-nurse and someone currently in need of physical care from others I can really relate to this. So pleased I’ve discovered your writing! Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Joy. I’m so happy the thoughts expressed rang true to you. I trust that you will continue to find the care you need from those who love you, and that you will know the touch of the One who cares and loves more than any here on earth. We’re held in His strong and loving hands for all of our days—and beyond. Blessings!

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