By Chris Cartwright, Contributing Writer
When you hear the term “love story” what comes to mind? Perhaps a story of two people who experience “love at first sight?” Maybe you think of a Disney fairy tale-like story involving “Prince Charming” and “true love’s kiss”? Perhaps a Jane Austen novel? Whatever comes to mind, I’m sure it involves a good bit of romance. While romance is an important, even vital part of a healthy marriage, a real love story goes so much deeper.
Several years ago I had the privilege of observing one such story first hand. In 2004 I found myself moving from the warm tropical climate of my home in the Bahamas up to North Carolina to study Missionary Aviation at a Bible college there. That was quite an adjustment for this island boy.
Being so far from home made it nearly impossible to go home during breaks. Being in a tight-knit group such as the aviation program, it was only natural that one of my buddies invited me to spend Easter break with him down in upstate Georgia. His dad owned an aircraft maintenance shop which he managed at the local airport, so we planned to help him out there. We also planned on doing some other fun stuff like riding ATVs, flying his dad’s airplane, and fishing.
Finally the big day came. Just as our last class of the day was wrapping up, my friend’s dad arrived in town. After class, another friend took my buddy and I to the airport, where we met his dad who had flown his airplane in. We loaded our bags into the back of the airplane and off we went down to Georgia.
On the plane ride up, my friend asked his dad, “How’s Grandma doing?” “She’s hanging in there.” his dad replied. He then explained to me that several months ago, his grandmother had a serious stroke which left her unable to communicate and in constant need of care. “We can stop by and see her first thing on the way back from the airport if you would like.” “I’d love that, dad!” my buddy exclaimed.
A few short hours later, our flight concluded with a near perfect landing at the busy little county airport where my friend’s dad had his maintenance shop. We piled our things into the SUV, fired it up and pulled out of the airport parking lot and started down the quiet back country road towards town. On the way to my buddy’s grandparent’s house his dad exclaimed “Grandpa’s a real trooper. He has never left her side since she had the stroke. He has dropped everything else in his life to tend to her every need. That’s real love if you ask me.”
About 15 minutes later we pulled into the driveway. We got out of the vehicle and walked up the sidewalk to the front door. The door opened and we were greeted by a kind, older man with the most cheerful disposition. “Grandpa!” my buddy exclaimed as he threw his arms around the old man. After exchanging greetings, we were led into the living room where an older lady was sitting, staring at us, mouth slightly open and a confused look on her face. “Hi Grandma!” my buddy exclaimed. Her eyes drifted over to my friend, but there was no response beyond that.
The old man pulled up a chair on the other side of her and sat down. He placed her hand into one of his hands and began to gently stroke her head with his other hand. “We had a good day today didn’t we honey?” to which she silently gazed toward him. “You look so beautiful” he said as he continued to stroke her head.
As the week went on, we did work in the shop, rode four-wheelers, flew his dad’s airplane, went fishing, and did a host of other things. But you know what? Nothing stuck out to me more than the incredible example of love – TRUE love – that I was able to witness from my friend’s grandfather. I had the opportunity to visit them later that year for Thanksgiving. His grandmother has improved some, but she was still not communicating. Do you know where her husband was? Right by her side, tending to her every need. It was just as obvious then as it was several months earlier that this wasn’t viewed as a difficulty by him, but rather he considered it an honor to spend his life serving her.
While we tend to think of love as romance, or being “in love” and having “romantic” feelings, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 makes it clear that real love is much more about unselfish, dedicated devotion than it is about romance. Marriage isn’t always a bed of roses. There are miscommunications, misunderstandings, hurt, selfishness, sickness, financial struggles, and sometimes the responsibility to care for a spouse who cannot take care of themselves. Real love takes incredible dedication, but reaps incredible rewards.
Watching my friend’s grandfather tenderly care for the love of his life gave me an incredible practical example of what true love looks like. Love like this is something that we should all ask God to shape us and mold us to be able to emulate in our own marriages.
Have you ever witnessed an example of true love in your own life? What was it that set it apart for you?