A love for life

When I was young, I dreamed I would one day find my true love, a love that would last a lifetime.

I didn’t, but nonetheless I believe it may come to pass, as fortunately I have known, and I still do, couples who have shared a lifetime together and that are still very much in love with each other. It may be difficult, and not for everyone, but it is definitely possible.

My grandparents, for one. They were married in their early twenties, but had known each other since childhood, as they were cousins. He had always loved her, from as long as he could remember, and he had to propose to her a few times before she accepted.

The first years of their marriage were difficult – they had to face not only financial hardship but also the death of Granny’s brother, that sank her into a deep depression. Only my grandfather’s love helped her back on her feet: without his constant care and attention she would simply have died of a broken heart.

Then their life improved and they lived many happy and prosperous years: his success as a businessman and his political career; the graduation of their only daughter and her marriage, followed by two grandchildren they adored; then together they faced the terrible blow of having to leave their homeland and losing everything – and having to start anew; this time it was my grandmother who supported him and gave him strength during the terrible years years of his depression. They were always there for each other, and their relationship was one of great respect, total trust and common goals – they were the perfect, indestructible team. Together for 69 years.

Another example of an incredible couple were my friend Luisa’s parents, Uncle Jorge and Auntie Sara. They met in Mozambique, where she lived, the daughter of the principal of Lourenço Marques’ (the capital city) high school. He had recently arrived from Madeira, a dashing officer some ten years older than her, and they fell madly in love.

When I met then they had been married for more than 10 years and one could see they were very happy. I was amazed to see them holding hands like two sweethearts, something I was not used to (even my grandparents were not too demonstrative). And they never changed that habit – several years later, when I spent holidays in their home in Madeira, I was delighted to see Uncle Jorge sitting on the sofa beside his wife and immediately reaching out to her and holding her hand. And holding hands they would be during the whole evening. It was also lovely to see them when they came down the stairs impeccably dressed, Uncle Jorge in his black tie and Auntie Sara with a long dress, looking like two teenagers going on a date – one could see they just loved to go out together after so many years of marriage. And how they loved to dance with each other!

Certainly another good example is that of my wise friend António and his wife Isabel who are celebrating their 50th anniversary (the “golden anniversary” as we say in Portugal) today. They met in their twenties too, in the company where they both worked and soon they married. Several years later, after much hard work and dedication he was appointed for a major role in the company, but this meant they would have to move from the city where they lived – and she had to take the difficult decision to leave her job so that she might accompany him. It must have been very hard, but she was there for him and stayed by his side. And then again, as their life changed again – the marriage of their daughter, the return to their native city, the birth of their granddaughters, their daughter’s divorce – everything was faced together, as always. They seemed to me the perfect team: always together, always supporting each other, sharing the same interests and goals and enjoying the same hobbies, such as travelling together, which they did whenever they could.

I’m certain all these couples must have had their disagreements, their difficult moments, probably even their moments of doubt, perhaps even one or two major crisis, but somehow they managed to solve their differences and continue to pursue a common project together. Being close to them, one could clearly see they were partners for life.

People say marriage is a lottery. I wonder. So many things are said about marriage – for instance, that it is an error to marry young, before we know what we really want from life. And the fact that many couples grow apart, in different directions, is responsible for the breakdown of many marriages. However, all these three couples I’ve mentioned married fairly young. Were they simply lucky to find their “soulmate”, while others do not share that same luck? Was their love more authentic and true? Were they more able to sacrifice and compromise for the sake of their relationship? Were they able to face life and its challenges as a real team?

I suppose there are no answers to these questions and the success of any lifelong happy marriage remains a mystery that the rest of us, mortals unable to reach that “nirvana” will never know the answer to. But it is certainly a privilege, achieved by only a few blessed ones.

….

Among those couples blessed with what is after all the dream of us all, my friends António and Isabel celebrate today their 50th anniversary. I want to congratulate them, and tell them what a great example they are to us all. I want to thank them for showing us it’s possible to be in love with the same person for many years and live a happy life together. I wish them a wonderful day, and that they may continue to have many days of happiness together.

As I think of them, but also of my grandparents and of Uncle Jorge and Auntie Sara, I see they have so much in common: a deep love for each other, the sheer joy of being together and a vision of a life shared. All three couples have walked together the many paths of life and they have done it as lifelong companions, for better and for worse. And, because their love stories are inspiring, they will never end – they will always remain in the hearts of their children, grandchildren, and the people who were priviledged to witness it is, after all, possible to have a love that will last a lifetime. A love for life.

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