Thursday, February 14, 2013

What Love Is

It pains me that it has been over a month since I have been at my computer to write. So much has happened, including two children's birthdays. I can't even count the posts I've written in my head over the past month, wishing myself to the keyboard to record precious thoughts and feelings over moments I don't want to forget. And yet those moments have passed, and I cannot recall them now. But today, no matter how far behind I am due to the fact that I have been out of town for a week due to a Hawaii vacation (which I will hopefully share more about later), I am pushing it all aside to write something too important to forget. And it's so fitting for today anyway. After all, it's Valentine's Day, and this is a love story.

Yesterday I saw firsthand what love is. I attended the funeral of a man who would have been 91 years old if only he had lived three more days. It was not a large funeral by the world's standards, yet it was one of the most beautiful ones I've ever attended because every word spoken was so truly representative of this man and the full life he lived. He loved horses and trading cars; he loved garage sales; he worked in all sorts of various jobs and tinkered around building different projects; he was meticulous in his work; he was faithful in his beliefs; he was prayerful and honest. To me, though, the most remarkable thing about his life was that there was someone right by his side through every thing he did--right until the very end--his wife of nearly 72 years, my grandmother.

Stanley Nate--I wish this picture was better and that I had one of my grandmother. Beautiful people.

 I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to even imagine living 72 years, let alone being married that long. Most couples don't live to celebrate that anniversary, but my grandparents had a very special kind of love. I honestly can't count the number of times we wondered if we would lose one of them due to one health concern or another, but love prevailed and brought the other back each time. When my grandmother had a massive heart attack, followed by a stroke many years ago, the family thought for sure this might change things forever. Grandpa had to learn to do things for himself he had never done before, like comb his own hair and get his own breakfast (Grandma loved to wait on people), and we thought it might be the end of them both, but instead, it just made them both stronger.

Theirs is not the typical love story. At least not in the beginning. My grandma's mother was not a lover of Mormons and so my grandparents decided to do the only thing they could at the time--elope. With my grandpa's mother and my grandma's brother as witnesses, they drove to the nearest courthouse 40 miles away and were married by the judge there. As unromantic as it may sound, they then went home to their respective homes, my grandpa with his mother and my grandma with her brother. They didn't even live in the same town, so they only saw each other on weekends. They lived this way for the first five or six months of their marriage, keeping it a secret from my grandma's parents as long as they could. When they finally did decide to live as  a married couple, they were then sealed together in the Logan temple. However crazy this beginning to a marriage sounds, it must have worked! They stayed faithfully together for ove seven decades afterwards!

I had the privilege of living with my grandparents for a few months while attending Beauty School in Logan before I was married. I have wonderful memories of Grandma's gourmet breakfasts and her sack lunches. All my friends at school gathered around me every day at lunch to see what she had packed for me. She loves to bake and always had wonderful food for me. Grandpa's favorite movie at the time was "Pure Country." He used to watch it over and over and cry at the climax every time. I think it's because he he was a true cowboy at heart and appreciated a good love story when he saw it. I'm so grateful for those memories.

Two weeks ago I was just getting into bed when I got an unexpected phone call from my dad. He told me my grandpa would probably not live through the next day. I had just taken some pretty hefty medication that would normally prevent me from driving, but I knew I could not risk missing the chance to say goodbye to this great man. I showered, offered a prayer for my safety and drove to the hospital in Logan, arriving just before midnight. It is a decision I will always be grateful I made. I walked into a scene I have witnessed many times before--my grandmother sitting by my grandpa's bedside. And beside her, my Aunt Colleen, who has tirelessly taken care of everyone her whole life. What amazing women!

My father soon arrived and I had the privilege of hearing my grandfather whisper his love to us. He then took my grandmother's hand in his and lovingly winked at her. It was the most precious scene I think I have ever witnessed. I will never forget that moment. I told my grandpa how much I loved him and he cried. He didn't actually leave us that night but passed away one week later. I just know that in a hospital bed on a cold winter's night in February, I witnessed what love is.

a little closer --this is so beautiful to me

And yesterday at a funeral I saw it all over again as my grandmother, completely worn out, sat at her usual place--right by my grandpa's side. I looked at her and couldn't help but wonder what she would possibly do with her time now that her sweetheart is no longer physically with her. It seemed like a light had gone out inside her and my heart just ached for her. For the first time ever, this strong amazing woman seemed frail and oh, so lonely. I mean, what does one do who has just lost a spouse of 72 years, really?

And so today, on Valentine's Day, I am so grateful to know love in my life--to have people of my own to love and to have people who love me. And I'm especially grateful today for two people who, through 72 years of undying commitment to each other, taught me what love is.