A Lovely, Lovely Life

When I was in grade school, February was an exciting month because we handed out Valentines to all our classmates.  Our teachers would have us create a Valentine’s card for our parents, and my mom would buy a box of  cards and I would sit at the kitchen table and write a Valentine to each one of my classmates, drop a heart-shaped candy in the envelope and seal it.  As I remember, the best part of the celebration was tearing open the envelopes and eating the candy.  Sometimes I even read the cards.

As I grew older, Valentine’s Day became a day to either impress a young lady I was interested in or celebrate the romantic relationship I already had.  I was following a very old tradition which was started among the Romans with the festival of Lupercalia.  This festival was held in mid-February which celebrated the coming of spring “when love was in the air.”  At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day, named after a Christian saint.  The season was a time to celebrate romantic love and the decisions and desires which bond us so closely with another human being.

Over the years, I have watched my children follow this same cycle from cards and candies, to boyfriends and girlfriends to spouses, and now we are beginning again with our grandchildren.  This year my wife and I will write cards, buy candies, and maybe even babysit so our children can have a night out and a little rest from the challenges of parenting two small children.  But the season also reminds me of the joy and meaning that intimate relationships provide in our journey through this life.

Dr William Thomas, a world-renowned geriatrician, wrote that the three plagues of aging are “helplessness, loneliness, and boredom.”  He believes that as people grow older many are not able to do as many things as they could when they were younger; they have fewer relationships with others because of either an inability to get out as much or the loss of their friends, and finally that they are not engaged in as many activities that give them meaning as when they were younger.  The challenge for family members, friends, and professionals who work with seniors is to create programs which fight these plagues by empowering people, creating networks of relationships and providing meaningful activities for seniors which engage both heart, mind, and body.

 The desire for intimate relationships never goes away.  Seniors may no longer be as interested in the sexual nature of intimacy; however, the desire for meaningful conversations, the gentle touch, and the personal connection of conversations and affection are always important and may be one of the best antidotes to the plague of loneliness. 

 A couple of years ago, we invited several of our couples at Atherton to tell us their love stories.  It was exciting to hear how they met and fell in love, how they had endured the ups and downs of life, and the advice they would give younger couples in their journey.  One of the gentlemen, Paul DeVaughn, who had been married 68 years to his wife, Juanita, said, “If you can keep that feeling alive that you had when you first met, and if you mean what you say when you say it, you will have a lovely, lovely life.”

This is the intimacy which is sown over the years and combats the loneliness of age as well as nurtures the soul of a human being.  It is the truest sense of romance and the most satisfying of human need.  It is sometimes found in young passion, but finds its deepest expression in maturity.  It is what the Apostle Paul referred to as the greatest of all virtues.  It is love.