The Meaning of Love

We’ve all learned about love in different ways—through movies, songs, books, by watching people interact on the subway, and by observing the relationships of those closest to us.

I remember as a teen hearing the line from the movie Love Story (a film based on the novel by Erich Segal) “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” and wondering if that were true. It sounded so beautiful then, but I eventually learned that apologizing is part of the process that keeps love alive; it helps to acknowledge that you are aware of the other person’s feelings. Then there are those love songs that taught me about love. The Association sang, “You don’t know how many times I’ve wished that I could mold into someone who could cherish me as much as I cherish you” and I learned that love was sometimes unrequited. The Four Seasons sang, “Dawn go away, I’m no good for you” and I realized that love can mean saying goodbye. When The Police sang, “Every breath you take, every move you make…I’ll be watching you” I learned that love can be controlling and frightening.   As I grew older, I started to appreciate songs that taught me about the love between a parent and a child: “Daddy’s Little Girl” (“you’re everything nice”), “Butterfly Kisses” (“Oh with all that I’ve done wrong I must have done something right to deserve her love”) and “Wind Beneath My Wings” (“I can fly higher than an eagle, for you are the wind beneath my wings”).

We learn about love in so many ways and I believe that Valentine’s Day, a day set aside to think about love of all kinds — love of self, love of friends, pets, country, food, nature, travel, movies, books – is just wonderful. Romantic love is just one kind of love, so no matter where you are or what you are doing, I hope you use the day to connect with someone or something you love.

In that spirit, I am connecting with a guest writer for my blog. She is a high school English teacher, she is earning her MA in Theater Education and she is my daughter. She is writing about what she learned about love from my parents. I learned it from them too. In the spirit of this being a psychological blog, it means we learn through social learning – we learn from watching others. We think about the rewards those we are observing receive by performing certain actions and we decide if we want to imitate those actions in the hope of gaining the same rewards. I know their love was special. I hope it will inspire you as well.

“How I Learned About Love” by Amanda Urban

“Just don’t cry, okay Millie?” were the last words that my grandfather said to my grandmother before he died. He was 88 years old. In his final moments, he walked from the bedroom to the hallway that was filled with pictures of his family. My grandmother helped him walk down the hall because he was having trouble using the new walker that the doctors gave him the week before when he started complaining about back pain (that probably hurt much more than his calm, World War II soldier demeanor ever let on). He lost his footing, in turn pushing the walker against the wall and squeezing my grandmother’s hand that was holding on to the walker along with his. Tears began to form in my grandmother’s eyes from the pain in her hand. “Don’t cry Millie,” my grandfather said. And he fell to the floor. My grandmother tried to shake him awake, “Jerry? I’m going to call 911, okay Jerry?” His eyes opened, he nodded, and he said, “Just don’t cry, okay Millie?” And then he was gone.

I, along with the rest of my family, like to believe that my grandfather wasn’t telling my grandmother not to cry about her hand; he was telling her not to cry after he was gone. He was telling her she would be okay without him. He was telling her that he loved her more than anything, and that he wanted her to be happy even though he wouldn’t be with her anymore.

I believe in true love. And I believe in it because of the love that my grandparents shared. It was clear from the words he chose to say in his last breath that my grandfather cared deeply for my grandmother, that her wellbeing and her happiness far outweighed his own.

My belief in true love does not just stem from his beautifully romantic final moments, but rather from the small, routine acts of love that they displayed for one another every day for 63 years. My belief in true love comes from my grandmother devotedly cooking them dinner every single day and from my grandfather dutifully making a salad every single night. It comes from when my grandmother would scream “JERRRRRRYYYYY!! What are you?! Stupid?!” and my grandfather would sit patiently and absorb her anger until it was done. It comes from the way that my grandmother always reflected on what a good man he was and how lucky she was to have him. It comes from watching my grandfather crack chestnuts open after Christmas dinner and pass them to my grandmother without ever being asked. It comes from their ability to tell stories together, and know exactly what the other was going to say. It comes from the quiet comfort they had as they sat next to each other watching Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. It comes from the palpable joy they shared at each stage of their life–going on dates, getting married, raising their daughters, and watching their grandchildren grow.

I once heard that true love is not Romeo and Juliet, it is the grandmothers and grandfathers who stay together for sixty or more years of marriage. I believe that Romeo and Juliet loved each other and that their love story that spanned all of three days was enchanting, but I believe more in my grandparents, who made it through 22, 925 days of marriage. I believe that love is patient, and love is kind, and love is sometimes yelling “JERRRRRRYYYYY!!”. I believe that my grandfather is watching over me. And I believe that one day, I will find a love as beautiful as the love my grandparents had for each other.

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23 thoughts on “The Meaning of Love

  1. This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing! Love is beautiful and I believe it exists. There’s so much controversy surrounding it and I believe it’s foundation has changed with the times, but true love does exist…

  2. To Diane first, then Amanda second — thank you. Tears of recognition,,, tears of joy,,, tears of rememberance,,, and most importanty,,, tears of LOVE sprang freely while reading this powerful post.

    Thank you both. With all my love,

  3. Amanda, your words highlight the charisma and love of your mother; Diane, whom I appreciate indescribably. I like your post. I like when you describe the love of your grandparents. That kind of love is the true love, which not everybody gets a chance to have.

    Today we have confused love with feelings, feelings that get mixed in our thoughts and thoughts that can confuse us. If we wait, God will give us the right person, the person that will be with us until the last moment, as your grandparents did.

    I love what you said in your last paragraph, about your believes in love being patient, kind and sometimes yelling“JERRRRRRYYYYY!!”. Your paragraph reminded me of what the Bible says about love and you are right.

    In 1 Corinthians 13:4-13, it says:
    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
    8 Love never fails… 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

    Diane and Amanda, thanks for your post. Keep believing on true love; it does exist and will from generations to generations.

  4. Woooooooow! Beautiful article Amanda, you definitely have the same heart of your mother Diane. I completely agree with your words and I also believe that true love is the one that perseveres until the very end. Just like you said about Romeo and Juliet I also agree with it, many people believe Romeo and Juliet is the most romantic story ever. However, they miss the fact that their love was only for three days and there are many people like your grandparents that liveth love until they died. I am glad I got to read this beautiful story and hope more people get the chance too, so that they can know what real love means and how it looks like.

  5. I also believe in true love. To me love is the most beautiful way someone can express one’s feelings. I can say that what my mother went through with my grandmother during the last two years of her life was an indescribable love. My grandmother was a very strong and independent woman who used to live alone after grandpa died. She used to come to our house to stay for a couple of months and after going back to her house in Puerto Rico, suddenly grandma became ill with Alzheimer and could not live by herself anymore. She had her other daughter (my aunt) in Puerto Rico but my mother decided to bring her home to live permanently with us. My sister and I spoke to mom about putting abuela (grandma) in a nursing home program at least during the day being that it was to much for mom. My mother told us to not to even think about that because when she was little and she was sick her mother never left her alone, why should she do that to her. She told us I will take care of my mom until the last minute, even if that meant not resting enough or to be confined within these walls. Those words pierced my heart, not only because they were coming from my mother’s mouth but because the way she expressed them. She was not sad, angry or disappointed, on the contrary she was sure about her decision and she said also I will do it for any one of you. I believe in the bible and the bible says love suffers long, and is kind, love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up. When that kind of love is in one person, it doesn’t matter what that person has to go through, one will always see positive in the middle of it all.

  6. Thank you both for sharing how you came to understanding what true love is by watching your family. This post sounded like a fairy tale but it was indeed very realistic and full of encouragement. It highlighted the high level of respect that your father/grandfather had for your mother/grandmother, the ability to put each other first and the commitment to each other even when voices went higher then level 1. This is a breath taking post and I hope this kind of love continues to travel within your family.

  7. This post was so beautiful!! It made me tear up as I thought of my own grandparents and even my own parents…They have been together since they were just 14 and have stayed in a strong, adoring and beautiful relationship for 26 years. I know they will grow old with each other and have a just as beautiful true love.

  8. It is very true that apologies are very importance part of love. We really need to learn to apologize to our love ones when we wrong them because in relationships, it is apologies is showing how much you care for the other. Moreover, this article makes me understand that our loved once makes us emotional but how we respond to our emotions is our decision. Therefore love is the most powerful emotion a person can experience!

  9. I am so touched by the story. This what true love is. In the bible standpoint love also is patient and kind. It bears all things , believes in all things and endure all things. I think that what Amanda’s grandparents showed. Ietting everything go is makes love very beautiful. This article is awesome. I believe we can learn from the authors experience and show our love regardless of kinds like love for others, books, parents etc.

  10. I thought these stories only happen in the movies I am sincerely moved with this beautiful story and acknowledge that the people I admire are my grandparents also have that love and spite of so many years of being together they still love each other. thanks for making us see and understand it means to love in spite of the circumstances.
    and to be thankful for our grandparents thank you again.

  11. wow! Tears just fall down my cheeks as I read this post, for that reminds me of my dead mum. Like Amanda said, real love doesn’t have to be Romeo and Juliet fairly tale love. for decades or even more, real love do not exist anymore. For those who knows you have found a real love , please value it and treat it good.

  12. At first, I thought this article was going to explain how a married couple should live their lives, and make some alternatives to prevent a divorce. On the other hand, I was stunned to discover the truth about love. I thought love was to express your emotions towards someone, but in reality the article taught me that true love is patients. Having a huge amount of patients, unfortunately is a skill everyone does not have for themselves. With this in mind, I understand why most marriages end in a divorce. However, every married couple should know that true love is to endure their spiritual other to last for many years. Although this article has taught me many valuable lesson on the meaning of love, I am convinced that ever engaged couple should remember that truth love is being with their spiritual other for weeks, months and years until death.

  13. oh Love! what a word with infinite meanings… We actually just discussed this in class this past week, so I was super excited to see what your blog consisted of on this topic! I have to completely agree that love isn’t perfect, and therefore apologies are necessary. We live in a society that wants to tell us how to feel. They want us to live our lives by giving us ONE universal definition for absolutely everything when it reality, we all have DIFFERENT perspectives and understandings of things and that’s what life is about; diversity.

    Your daughters post made me tear up! So beautifully and simply written, that it actually made me feel as if I was there in that moment with her grandparents. Its always important to have grown up on seeing such touching moments between the ones that matter the most because those are the memories you hold on to forever and also shape you as a person. These things also set standards for when one is already grown and looking into love. 🙂

    Such a great blog Professor! Thank you! <3

  14. Very emotional! Just the part about your grandfather had me choked up. But I love how many different characteristics you give love, because for the most part when people hear the word love, it brings joy to their hearts (at least for me). But, this isn’t always the case. As you explained, love can sometimes mean saying goodbye. For example if you love someone, but you know that they’d be better off without you, you have to let them go, and honestly this is one of the hardest things any sane human can do. Love can cause heartbreak, and it can cause tremendous joy. It’s a very broad, but meaningful term. But…all in all, I believe that love is really whatever you want it to be, or mean to you. Love for some people can mean investing your whole life into someone, and for others it can be simple commitment that doesn’t take a lot of effort. It’s an interesting phenomenon that I still haven’t completely wrapped my head around yet, but I can safely say that their are certain people in my life that I feel I truly love

  15. This is beautiful and touching. I just picture my husband and myself 50 or 60 years from now. Love is more than huggs and kisses. It is also caring, holding on each other in good and bad situations. Respect and being there for each other.thank you for sharing this. Great blog!

  16. LOVE IS A BEAUTIFUL THING WHEN YOU ARE WITH your best friend your lover and think the world of you, everyday they see your face . wow this was very touching and remind me of my ex boyfriend mom pass away right in front of my eyes and it was a love like mother and daughter , how it went from seeing her and being around her everyday to not seeing her laugh or anything anymore and its very touching.
    ‘i’m a strong believer in love and i know there somebody out there for everybody. even me i just wish i will find the same love as my parents who been together for 32 years and it gets new every time. ”I once heard that true love is not Romeo and Juliet, it is the grandmothers and grandfathers who stay together for sixty or more years of marriage” . i so believe this quote
    I was super excited to see what your blog consisted of on this topic! I have to completely agree that love isn’t perfect, and therefore apologies are necessary. We live in a society that wants to tell us how to feel

  17. Wow I think its a coincidence that I am reading this post, especially after going through a break up for the second time, same person. This post directly coincides with the relationship I had with this special person because there was a lot of true love. I told her I loved her everyday, and she said it back. We did everything together and spent everyday together. It wasn’t about saying the words “I Love You”, it was about being there for the person in rough times or en-lighting times. Though, I knew saying “I Love You”, was meant to make bring joy into the other persons hearts, I didn’t realize that it could mean goodbye. Those exacts words were said to me.

  18. Admitting your wrong when in your relationship is very good because Like you said Urban Diane your letting the other person know that their feelings is hurt. I know some of my friends hate admitting your wrong to their significant others but i feel thats wrong. How are you suppose to grow as a couple

  19. This is amazing and very touching! I believe in true love and to me, true love is about being able to support one another and being able to express your feelings no matter if they are good or bad. It is also about being able to set a good example for your loved ones. I have a great relationship with my family and they motivate me to conquer any adversity that is put in front of me and do my very best everyday. I completely agree that love is patient and it is not always going to be perfect. I also agree that apologies is the best way to show them that you deeply care about them. When you are having a very tough day, your loved ones are able to support you in every way they can and cheer you up by giving you some positive feedback and also letting you make up for your mistakes.

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