On the day before Valentine’s Day (Friday), I stopped at Walgreens to pick up something that I needed. As I was walking through the store, I passed the aisle with the Valentine’s Day cards. When I saw the cards, it occurred to me that I had not yet purchased a Valentine’s Day card for Georgette.
I walked over to the section where the romantic cards were displayed and there was a young man looking through the cards. I immediately said, “Nothing like waiting until the last minute to buy your wife a Valentine’s Day card.” He immediately replied, “I’m actually a day early this year.”
“I am too,” I said.
About two minutes later, the man selected his card and as he was walking away, he said, “Good luck, it’s slim pickins.”
He was right.
I’ve never been very good at the game of romance. I was in Walgreens the previous week and it didn’t occur to me to pick up a card. I was also in Walgreens the week before that, and I didn’t think of buying a card.
Come to think of it, I’m in Walgreens almost every week. It’s my favorite store, because I can park right outside the door, walk in, and immediately find and purchase what I need. I hate Walmart because I have to walk half a mile every time I want to buy something.
Earlier last week, I saw an article about a poll that had been conducted by Beagle Street, a British life insurance company. After polling 1,000 people on what they thought were the greatest love letters ever written, Beagle Street declared that the winner was a letter written by the legendary country music artist Johnny Cash, to his wife, June Carter Cash. The letter was written in 1994 and was given to her on her 65th birthday.
The remaining top four letters consisted of one from Winston Churchill to his wife (1935), one from John Keats to his next-door neighbor, Fanny Brawne (1819), one in which Ernest Hemingway professed his love to Marlene Dietrich (1951), and one from Napoleon Bonaparte to his lover, Josephine de Beauharnais (1796). Here’s the text of Johnny Cash’s letter to his wife:
Happy Birthday Princess,
We got old and got used to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes we take each other for granted.
But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me.
You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.
Happy Birthday Princess.
After seeing the Johnny Cash letter, I did a quick search on Google for other famous love letters. I ran across a letter that was written in 1861 by Sullivan Ballou to his wife, Sarah. Ballou was a 32-year-old lawyer and politician who fought in the Civil War. He was an officer in the Union Army. The week before he lost his life in battle, Ballou wrote a letter to his 24-year-old wife. In the letter, Ballou told his wife about a battle that was coming up. The letter is too long to reprint here, but here’s an excerpt of what Ballou wrote to his wife:
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me — perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar — that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
The letter was never mailed. It was found in Ballou’s trunk after he died and was delivered to his widow by a government official.
In the famous Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, the Jewish character Tevye sings a song in which he asks his wife, Golde, if she loves him. The question comes after two of Tevye’s daughters refuse to follow the cultural tradition of allowing their parents to arrange their marriages. The daughters are adamant that they are going to marry the men they love.
In the song, it is revealed that Tevye met Golde for the first time on their wedding day, after their parents arranged their marriage. Tevye admits that he was scared and reminds Golde that his father and mother told him that they would learn to love each other. Tevye then asks Golde again, “Do you love me?” Golde responds, “I’m your wife!” “I know … but do you love me?” asks Tevye.
Golde then recites a litany of things that she has done for Tevye over the years, including washing his clothes, cooking his meals, cleaning his house, having his children, and milking his cow. She goes on to say that for 25 years she fought with him, starved with him, and shared his bed. She then declares, “If that’s not love, what is?” At that point, Tevye gets excited and says, “Then you love me?” Golde responds, “I suppose I do.” Then Tevye responds, “And I suppose I love you too.” They conclude the song by singing together, “It doesn’t change a thing, but even so, after 25 years, it’s nice to know.”
The biggest challenge a couple has after being married for 25 or more years is the temptation to take the relationship for granted and stop performing the small, special acts of love and kindness that were routinely performed before and shortly after the marriage.
One of the most important things to realize is that in order to keep a relationship fresh and growing, there needs to be a great sense of urgency in showing love and affection toward our spouses. Every time a close family member or friend dies, we are reminded that there is no guarantee that we will be blessed with even one more day with our spouse. We have to always keep in mind that we may only have one more chance to show our love. The best way to do that is by exercising heroic patience and kindness, frequently using terms of endearment such as “sweetheart,” performing repeated acts of self-sacrifice without complaining, and praying daily for our spouse.
This is one of the key secrets to a happy, fulfilling marriage. It’s also a good way to make every day a Valentine’s Day.