I thought about love a lot recently, fleetingly considering its meaning. Well...I haven't arrived at any conclusions because I don't feel that 'Love' can be defined. Some schools of thought apply more chemistry to love than comfort...deeming it no more than a biological urge procured to provide continuity of the species...and whilst I partly agree with this, I feel that its purpose to sustain our longevity is but one of loves multi-faceted layers.
Love is labyrinthine in its complexities and I have no want to de-construct its machinations here...I know only that love is many things to many people, each experience of it being as unique as the individual who suffers its residency...and with that in mind...I shall tell you a love story of my own.
I have known love...and love has known me...indeed, we are still hearty companions... but this tale of love I have to tell is not one of partnerships and passions...it's one of tenderness, tolerance, and sacrifice...and it revolves around an uncle of mine ...Tom.
In 1917 Tom was born into a loving family of no modest number, his being one of ten children. This would have been one of Tom's first encounters with love...that given to him by his parents and his siblings and eventually, the love he duly returned, as his own young life began to flower and mature.
It was during these early years that the first fractures in loves perfect presence began to appear, when two of Tom's small sisters were taken ill with Diphtheria and sadly died. Whilst love remained, at this time, it was edged in sadness and melancholia...thus Tom learnt the pain of loss.
Aged sixteen, having left home, circumstance found Tom living in lodgings in London. There it was that he discovered another aspect of love...through his meeting the love of his life Netta and they were each inseparable...until, that is, the early death of his Father demanded Tom return home to help his Mother care for the large family.
More tragedy was to follow when an older brother was later reported 'Missing Lost at Sea' whilst serving with the British Navy during WW11...leaving the household broken and bare but not irreparably so...love could also heal.
Tom, however, had decisions to make regarding love. To stay with his Mother who, whilst putting no pressure upon him to stay, he knew would be hard pressed to manage without his support...or...to return to Netta who, unable to accompany Tom herself, waited for him in London where she hoped they would eventually be settled and able to continue exploring every nuance of their love.
After much thought and as difficult as it had been, Tom decided he couldn't allow his own happiness to overshadow the needs of the family...and so, with great reluctance and great sadness, after explaining the situation, he said goodbye to Netta.
They stayed in touch for some time but eventually Netta married and, whilst they were still firm friends, their contact ultimately tapered away...and so...love was sacrificed...for love.
Tom never married, remaining at home with his Mother ( my grandmother ) who was to pass away years later...but long before she did...I came along.
Yet another aspect of love was to be found here when, at the age of five, my parents divorced. For reasons I wont labour you with now I went to live with Gran and Uncle Tom...where each day was a new experience of selfless love. Gran was a huge and vital part in all of this but this tale is of Tom...and so it shall remain.
Tom nurtured me through every juncture of my life. From infancy, to adolescence...all the way through to adulthood. He patched my grazed knees, he helped me with homework, he nursed me through sickness, he worried that I was reading and writing too much gory stuff, he made me laugh!
He taught me kindness and tenderness and much, much, more....but mostly...because of what he did and how he was...I learned of love. Yet you know the strangest thing? He never once told me he loved me...not once...but he didn't need to...love doesn't always need a voice.
Time moves on and eventually Tom's health began to fail. He'd helped to nurse most of his family through sickness, having provided seamless, loving care for my grandmother during her final months...now it was his turn to feel a new side of love...one where he would be looked after...by us...his family.
Now I am about to tell you of a thing which will never be removed from my memory...and it's a something that I will treasure always, as dramatic as that may sound...it involves three little words. You think you know what they are don't you?...You're mistaken...I'll explain.
Tom had been admitted to hospital. It was an occurrence that was becoming more frequent...and more worrying each time. His declining health and subsequent fragility meant that I had recently become his advocate whereby I looked after all of his affairs. Thankfully, this particular day Tom had recovered sufficiently enough as to be allowed to come home and so I'd happily gone to meet him.
As I walked into the ward I saw Tom chatting to a nurse and I heard her say to him, without a hint of malice...'Tom, you must really trust your niece'...to which, through the most genuine, honest smile I've ever seen, he simply replied... 'Beyond All Others'...and in that moment I knew a love of such purity as to put any other in shadow.
|Uncle Tom....a truly gentle man....|
I don't know where his mind had taken him at that moment...but I'd like to think that in his final hours...maybe it was Netta's hand he was holding...who knows?
What I do know is that whilst 'Love' is many things, as it manipulates and maneuvers our lives around it, we could not exist without it...unfortunately many have ceased to exist because of it!
However, I was lucky in my life...I knew Tom.
© Copyright Lynn Gerrard