I think the beautiful expression “ I Love You” is often misplaced, uttered too early, making it empty.
The scene is much too familiar to us: a young man sees a young beautiful woman, gets turned on, asks her out, and soon they spend mostly good times together within five or six months, then at one point the man looks straight into her eyes, and mouths: “I love you”. The woman responds : “ I love you, too.”
The next year they get married, feel the heat of marriage and family life, begin showing their true colors, cut down their tolerance level, significantly raise the frequency of quarrels and yelling at each other, and finally get divorced…
“No more I love you,” cried Annie Lennox (a singer).
In the above story, that expression “I Love You” is simply said too early. It’s like arriving at a beautiful beach, saying “I love this beach!!”, and plunging straight into the water, only to find barracudas and sharks darting toward you to rip your flesh. So you are forced to jump out of the water, swearing: “This place is one f**king hell!”
Now picture this:
A man meets a woman, feels the power of attraction in their similar interests, outlook and ideals, and says, “ I want you to be part of me for the rest of my life,”, the woman nods and they decide to get married.
As in the first story, their true colors show up, they get into occasional conflicts, but other than that they still maintain their relationship. Sometime in the marriage, the man’s business slumps, forcing him to get a loan with huge interest. But the business simply does not recover despite his desperate attempts to revive it. So he has to watch his business go up in smoke, and is left with huge debts. Unable to pay, he gets sued by the creditor, and ends up in jail.
Three years in a jail, he is set free. He gets back to his wife, who has been trying to earn a living by opening a modest shop, besides raising their children. Again they work hard to grow the business. As the business begins picking up, his wife is diagnosed with a malignant cancer. Soon the man spends most of their saving to pay for the medical treatment for his ailing wife. The business stalls as most of the profit goes for the expensive medications. Finally they are forced to shut down their shop.
The wife is dying on a hospital bed, her face contorted and her head balding as a result of the chemotherapy and other forms of medications. The man sits on the bedside, holding her hands, praying…
Then he looks straight into her eyes, saying softly, “ I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she whispers weakly but firmly.
Then she dies…
That is when the utterance “I love you” finds its timely moment. For it has been proven throughout many years of their marriage. It has stood the test of time, unshaken by quarrels, differences, even conflicts, nor by sad times, sickness, or failures.
There have been many profound thoughts about love and its beauty. But to me one thing is certain: only when a couple has endured all the bad times and good times, all the hardships and joy throughout many years, and still find each other holding hands and caring even at the darkest sadness does the word “I love you” find its true meaning.
Patrisius Djiwandono is an English lecturer at http://www.machung.ac.id
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Patrisius Istiarto Djiwandono is a lecturer and Dean of Faculty of Language and Arts, Universitas Ma Chung, Malang, East Java