Sunday, February 10, 2008

Caregivers and Unconditional Love

Do you have happy memories of puppy love? Do you remember your classmates stuffing valentines into a decorated box placed on the corner of your desk in elementary school?

I remember a valentine from the second grade that said, “Let me be your prince and guard your castle.” It came from the cutest boy in my class. It was the prize valentine out of box of 32—the one with the most sparkle. Time stood still as I waited, heart pounding, for him to open the valentine I had given him. Just like in a TV Hallmark moment, he caught my eye across the classroom and smiled at me. Life was good, my feelings were returned.

When I was seven years old, I planned to marry my classmate when I grew up and live happily ever after. My plans changed, and I did not marry the dark-haired boy with the killer smile. It was just a case of puppy love.

After we grow up, puppy love seems, well, so puppyish. Somewhere along the way, we realize that love is much more than holding hands and valentines. The reason we love someone has more to do with character and personality and a lot less with how they look. We become less selfish and more giving.

When someone we love has dementia, we learn a new level of love that we may have not previously known. We begin to love unconditionally without expectations of reciprocation.

Alzheimer’s often brings about role reversals as we struggle to provide care for loved ones who once took care of us. Love will make a caregiver stronger than he ever thought he could be. The Bible teaches that love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. That sounds like a perfect definition of a caregiver with a heart full of unconditional love. Be sure to give your loved one the biggest glitziest valentine you can find, and wait breathlessly for that big smile.

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