Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What is True (Real) Love? An Example of a Dying Man

Not that anyone probably really cares, but I had promised a while back to write about the situation concerning my ill father now on hospice. I had briefly made a post before, here, and have been struggling on what, exactly, to put to paper. If you've ever dealt with, or seen, one of your parents or grandparents on hospice, then you'll know what a messy and terrible experience that it can be.

This is not designed to be a complaint or attack on anyone. It is just thoughts jotted down on paper.

Once on hospice there are no miracles for the ill. There isn't even any faith or hope for a miracle or any "getting better" on hospice. There is only an attempt to comfort the sick. There is only waiting for "the end." 

This lack of faith begins to do strange things to the survivors, it seems. This, for me, is the most disturbing part of the human reaction to those around the dying; the lack of faith and the morality this situation creates among the living.

As when Jesus walked on water in Matthew 14:

 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 
30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

The worst part of a hospice situation is the lack of hope and, often, even the lack of faith. Perhaps there needn't be any faith to cure the ill. All mortals die. But the lack of faith of those who remain is the part that bothers me most. This is the most tragic part of this; the lack of faith. 

This lack of faith can take many forms. It can be a lack of faith in the Maker or it can come as a lack of faith in fellow humanity who seem to be motivated by money or greed.

Too often it seems that there are those who are around and near the dying who are not motivated by love and that is what contributes to a lack of dignity for the dying. Admittedly, there can be many reasons and stress that cause ordinarily decent people to act insane. 

As I wrote before in this very blog:

They say that when someone in a family gets a serious illness, like, say, cancer, everyone in that household gets cancer. Well, I think it must be true.

My dad is extremely sick and near death... But everyone is this household is extremely sick.

I don't want to bother nor bore you with details of what has transpired to my father. There are many. But let me give one example that is a microcosm of the entire affair. This is a distasteful incident but it will lead me into the purpose of this post and what I want to say about "What is true love?" 

Here is a brief explanation of just one incident that I had to relate to another family member (please bear with me as it will be soon explained what this has to do with the subject of True Love):

One night, my father was seriously constipated and in great pain. His primary caregiver decided he needed an enema. She ordered me to help hold up my father in a sitting on hands and knees position as he is too weak and frail to do so by himself. I did as I was told. He was heavy. 

She administered the enema. 

The stool was greatly impacted and my father was screaming in intense pain. I could see the impacted stool from my position. It wasn't coming out. My father kept screaming to the primary caregiver, "Sandra! (not her real name) Put your finger in there and pull it out." 

Sandra refused to do that. 

She screamed at him, "I am not going to do that! I am not your wife!"
I was appalled at what she said. I held up my father with my right arm and then held out my left hand and told Sandra, "Give me the gloves, I'll do it." I couldn't move my position as, if I did, my father would have collapsed and he was already in great pain.

For some God-knows-why reason, Sandra refused to give me a glove. She was adamant and said "No!"
Then, my father, screaming in agony, stuck his own finger in his anus and shoveled out the stool. 

He was in terrible pain and swearing to God almighty. His primary caregiver refused to do this basic function of a nurse and caregiver. She was berating him for soiling the bed.
Nurses shovel out stool all the time. She refused. Things are going to get worse.

Once again, I'm sorry for the disgusting play by play, but that's the way things are everyday on hospice. The lucky ones are the ones who have primary caregivers who do what they do for love. 

When she said, "...I am not your wife!" I felt sorry for my father and for her too. It has nothing to do with being a wife. It has to do with human empathy and suffering. Be it love of the sick or love of humanity, it doesn't matter. 

Love is an integral part towards giving the dying dignity. And, who hasn't heard, "What goes around, comes around?"

I am saddened to say that I wish my father's primary caregiver had more love and empathy. That she doesn't shows just how ill she really is and how much she needs to be pitied.

When I told my wife of this story she said to me, "When that happens to you. Don't worry, I will do that for you." 

I know she will. 

My wife and I have True Love. I hope you do and, if you don't, I hope you can get it someday too.

Let me now explain what this has to do with the title of this post: What is True Love?

There are three kinds of love: Fall in Love, True Love and Spiritual Love.

Fall in Love is easy. People do it all the time. Most people will do this, perhaps,  dozens and dozens of times during their lives. Fall in Love usually starts in puberty when a youth falls in love with some star they've seen in magazines or on TV... Or they "Fall in Love" with a classmate that they've never really gotten to know. Fall in Love is "love" of someone, or more specifically speaking, "falling in love" with the "image" of someone. It is not falling in love with that true person. It is falling in love with who you think that person is, or wish them to be.

But don't think that Fall in Love is childish or silly. It is not. It could be the first step to True Love.

Too many people today get married merely when they Fall in Love. That's why divorce is so high. People marry when they Fall in Love and then, once reality sets in, and they really get to know their partner, they decide that they weren't really in love at all, so they divorce. 

They divorce because building True (real) Love requires a lot of work and acceptance of one another's fault's and shortcomings. Building True Love is not an easy process and takes years of give and take.

A very good friend of mine once told me that he could tell that my wife and I have True Love. He said that one big part of True Love is that it is not physical or involving animalistic tendencies or imagination. True Love involves and requires great sympathy. Sympathy for each other and all the things that we have to suffer through in life.

I think he is right. In a weird sense, I feel sorry for my wife. We have a wonderful life together and we have a wonderful son. We have a home, food and a job... But we are getting older. We are going to die. Perhaps she could have married someone better than me? Perhaps I stole her youth and took away her chances? It's a bizarre notion for most people to think this way, I believe, but it is this sympathy for your partner that is a strong bond for True Love.

True Love is what, hopefully, our parents have for each other. Of course, it takes decades to build.

The last real love is Spiritual Love. This is the love between a person and their god or a mother and her child. No matter what happens, Spiritual Love cannot be broken. Whereas the other forms of love can be broken, Spiritual Love lives on even in death. A child could be a terrible criminal yet that child's mother will always love them. That is Spiritual Love.

It is the very lucky and fortunate few who marry when they Fall in Love, then they work to build True Love and, one day, are blessed with Spiritual Love.

It is this True Love or Spiritual Love that blesses far too few of the dying today in our society.

Building True and Spiritual Love is a long process that can require years, if not decades. 

I hope you have it. It doesn't come easy. You must work to build it.

If there is any lesson to be learned from my father's experience, then please remember this, and start building True Love today. For it is from True Love that Spiritual Love is born.

True Love requires that you open your heart and accept your partner for what they are and not what you imagine them to be. 

For tomorrow and your death will be here before you know it. As one of my good friend's always says, "Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you will die tomorrow."

For married partners or those living together, True Love can be yours. Dedication, even in death, can create Spiritual Love.

It is yours to create.

Thanks to Alan Tanaka, Sharon Kennedy, Yuri Tsujimoto whose own stories helped inspire this post. Hopefully it might help even one other person in the future. Thanks my friends.


Anonymous said...

MIKE!!! I Am so sorry and I so appreciate what you wrote...I can empathize with what you mother took care of my dad with a few hospice workers in and out a few days a week. My mom has known my dad since they were 8 yrs old, and he shouted at her that he was gonna grow up and marry her! they had many many years together...I cry and laugh at what you write because I *understand* the humanity/inhumanity. all my love to you....C

Jimbo said...

Mike, very insightful post, as usual. Being newly married (3 years) I have only had to deal with but a taste of the difficult path to true/spiritual love, but I'm sure we will get there someday. Love is not an easy thing to acquire, and even more difficult to sustain. I wish more people would discuss it and reflect on this topic and the world would be a much better place.

mikeintokyorogers said...


May I recommend a book entitled, "The Road Less Traveled" by F. Scott Peck?

Jimbo said...

Thanks for the suggestion! I'll check it out next time I'm at the book store.

Alan said...


Thanks for your post. It further proves to me that when you have a good woman do whatever it takes to keep her. Selfish relationships always seem to take a turn for the worse. Spiritual love and true love is a design for living which brings happiness. It seems that ignorant people never discover this truth.

Murasaki Shikibu said...

This is such a painful topic to talk about, I wrote a few paragraphs and deleted them.
Work has just become insanely demanding but we always need to remember that we work because of our families and not the other way around.
We need more genuine love and care in this world.
Take care, Mike.