Posted by Ronan Scully in Features.

My daughter Mia recently told my wife and I that she really loves us because ‘when you love someone for real it means your heart loves their heart and that her heart really loves our hearts’. Very profound words from a 7 year old? Her words made me think (after I cried my eyes out), ‘What is real love?’

What is real love?

I think if you find yourself in love with someone who does not love you, be gentle with yourself. There is nothing wrong with you. Love just didn’t choose to rest in the other person’s heart. If you find someone else in love with you and you don’t love him or her, feel honoured that love came and called at your door, but gently refuse the gift you cannot return. Do not take advantage, do not cause pain. How you deal with love is how you deal with you, and all our hearts feel the same pains and joys, even if our lives and ways are different.

If you fall in love with another, and he or she falls in love with you, and then love chooses to leave, do not try to reclaim it or to assess blame, let it go. There is a reason and there is a meaning. You will know in time. And maybe the Garth Brooks lyric sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers might come to mind.

Remember that you don’t choose love. Love chooses you. All you can really do is accept it for all its mystery when it comes into your life. Feel the way it fills you to overflowing, then reach out and give it away. Give it back to the person who brought it alive in you and to the world around you in any way you can.

That is where many lovers go wrong. Having been so long without love, they understand love only as a need. They see their hearts as empty places that will be filled by love, and they begin to look at love as something that flows to them rather than from them. They cease to be someone who generates love and instead become someone who seeks love. They forget that the secret of love is that it is a gift, and that is can be made to grow only by giving it away. Remember this, and keep it in your heart.

Love has its own time, its own seasons, and its own reason for coming and going. You cannot bribe it or coerce it or reason it into staying. You can only embrace it when it arrives and give it away when it comes to you. But if it chooses to leave from your heart or from the heart of your lover, there is nothing you can do and there is nothing you should do. Love always has been and always will be a mystery. Be glad that it came into your life, even it only for a moment. As usual, a story from my Nana Scully’s prayer book might help.

The kind of love I want in my life

‘It was approximately 8.30am on a busy morning when an elderly gentleman in his eighties arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9am. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat.

I knew it would take more than an hour before someone would be able to attend to him. I saw him check his watch anxiously for the time and decided to evaluate his wound since I was not busy with another patient. On examination, the wound was well healed. Hence, I talked to one of the doctors to get the supplies to remove his stitches. We began to engage in a conversation while I was taking care of his wound. I asked him why he was in such a hurry.

The gentleman said that he needed to go to a nursing home to have breakfast with his wife. I inquired about her health. He told me that she had been in the nursing home for a while as she was a victim or Alzheimer’s disease. I probed further and asked if she would be upset if he was slightly late.

He replied that she no longer knew who he was and she had not been able to recognise him since five years ago. I asked him in surprise, “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?” He smiled as he patted my hand and said, “She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.” I had to hold back my tears as he left. I had goose bumps on my arm, and I thought, that is the kind of love I want in my life.’

Thought for the week

As your thought for the week, remember that true love is neither physical nor romantic.

True life love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be, and will not be.