When my niece was a little girl, she asked me if I would please have a baby girl as she had enough brothers and wanted a cousin that was a girl. I smiled at her delightful innocence, and told her I'd see what I could do, but it wasn't entirely in my hands. As fate would have it, strangely enough I did end up having a daughter, so my niece got her wish. At a later date she asked me "What does love feel like?" Although a very pertinent question, I found it hard to put into words, so that a six year old could understand. How could such a young child grasp the concept of love? I know many adults who have not known what it is to love and be loved in return, so could a child comprehend the unfathomable emotion of "love" that may manifest differently for each person? An observant child she saw I was struggling to find an answer, so she asked "Is it that special smile you have only for my uncle?" I didn't realise I had a certain smile that was for my husband and him alone, but children are perceptive and sometimes notice the smallest of things.
Of course everyone has their own interpretation of love, but I would have to say, for me falling in love is a little like being struck by lightening. It's not an every day occurrence but when it happens, it's something you'll recognise immediately and remember for the rest of your life. It feels like nothing else you have experienced, and consumes your every thought day and night. Love is putting someone else's needs before your own, and often is put to the test by events that throw our orderly plans into disarray. Whether it be losing a job, the death of someone close in the family, or one of many circumstances that can push a couple to breaking point. In my case, it's my health situation which could have been a catalyst ending our marriage, and yet in some respects it has brought us closer together, making us realise and appreciate the important things in life. If this isn't love; I don't know what is.
We all carry baggage with us through life, whether we are aware of it or not. From our childhood, and events along the way that have made a huge impact on us either in a positive or negative sense are all part of making us who we are today. Choosing to deal with issues and work through them takes courage and determination, but ultimately worth it, for only when you can love yourself, are you able to unconditionally love someone else. No one is perfect, there is no such thing as a picture-perfect relationship, so without rosy tinted glasses, accepting the weaknesses and embracing the strengths that we are all endowed with, are to my mind the building blocks of a lasting marriage.
A huge shock to the system, can really put love to the test, turning one's orderly world into a hellish chaos when one's spouse is diagnosed with a serious debilitating or fatal illness. Justifiably one hopes to wake one morning from this nightmare and magically return to normality. But life inevitably changes no matter how much one would like to stay in the safe land of comfortable denial. Dreams and plans for the future have to be adjusted accordingly, and sometimes shelved altogether. Staying flexible wherever possible is fundamental in dealing with life altering circumstances. Taking one day at a time, coping with a new situation that feels alien, is not easy but this is where love and our inner strengths come into play. Most people in such unfortunate conditions find themselves coping, doing things they'd never have envisioned, suddenly taking on the role of caregiver and functioning in auto-pilot to some degree. Everyone reacts in different ways, but ultimately deal with similar problems. Practical advice should be welcomed from others in similar positions, or support groups especially catered for caregivers. All the support and help you can obtain, accept graciously.
I believe love is still holding hands when you're old and grey, knowing a person so intimately, you only have to glance at their eyes or hear their voice to know exactly what they're feeling. Love is the glue that holds us together through thick and thin, allowing to forgive each other for discrepancies, to compromise when necessary and putting the other person's needs before one's own.
Many years have passed since my dear niece asked me "What does love feel like?" and is now married and with a family of her own. I presume one day she may be asked the very same question by her own daughters.