A man going abroad to work leaves his fiancee crying. "Don't worry, I will write you everyday," he said. For years he did write her. But since he was happy with his job, he had no immediate plans of going home.
One day, he received a wedding invitation. His girl friend was scheduled to be married. To whom? To the mailman bringing regularly the letters of her boy friend! Indeed, distance does make hearts flounder.
The poor boyfriend surely explained, "What went wrong? I sent her letters, chocolates, and flowers." When relationships go wrong, the list of things given and done for the person usually crops up. We say, "I have given you this and that...I have done these things for you." It seems that love is simply proven by the bestowal of gifts and favors.
But while presents are important, love demands what is basic: presence of the beloved. I have observed for instance, the orchids of my mother. When she's away for a long time, they are unhealthy and many of them wither. But when she is around, they bloom with beautiful flowers. My mother does nothing exceptional. She just spends much time talking and caressing them.
I guess persons all the more require a caring presence. Love is fundamentally a commitment to a person. We may be committed to our business, job, hobby, sports and clubs, but strictly speaking, they cannot love us back. Only a person can love us in return, and for that matter the highest commitment as human beings is spending time with those persons we love. And since people need affection and nourishment, material things can only help up to a certain degree in fostering love. But it can never replace the greatest gift of presence.
Martha was busy with her job. She believed she had to work harder because she loves her father who is sick of cancer. She has to provide for his expensive medicines. Her brothers and sisters meanwhile stayed with their father most of the time. They bathed him, sang for him, spoon-fed him or simply kept him company.
One day Martha was hurt. She overheard her father telling her mother, "All our children love me except Martha." "How can this be?" Martha thought. "Am I not the one killing myself in my work to have money to buy for his medicines? My brothers and sisters do not even provide their share in the expenses as much as I do."
One night, as Martha was as usual late in going home, she peeped for the first time in the room where her father was lying. She noticed that her father was still awake. She decided to come close at his bedside. Her father held her hands and said, "I miss you. I don't have much time. Stay with me." And she stayed with her father holding his hand the whole night.
The next morning Martha said to everybody, "I have taken a leave of absence. I would like to be with father. I will bathe him and sing for him from now on." Her father had a beautiful smile. He knew this time Martha loves him.
* As children, we need the assuring presence of our loved ones. Adult people need no less. *