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Love at any age is worth recalling

I am revisiting a message I have offered before. Indulge me, if you will. I am in a time of reverie. I am looking back and recalling the loving relationships in my life — even those that did not end well. I call up passion-filled romantic trysts and smile in the recall. I remember milestone moments as well as unexpected flirtations.

But here is my question today? What is love at the end of life? Let’s explore that.

I will start at the beginning. Did you know there are three kinds of love? Eros is desire-filled, sometimes breathless love. There’s a lot of that when we’re young, and hopefully some of it as we grow older. Although, the “breathless” part of that definition may require a different kind of execution as one ages.

Philia is affectionate love as well as friendship and shared goodwill. Older adults need a lot of that.

Agape refers to the highest form of selfless love. Some authors say it is “total love,” one for another, and “devours those who experience it.”

There are actually more types of love — maybe even as many as eight, according to the ancient Greeks. There is stroge love, which is described as “familiar” or “kinship” love. Although if I told my husband, “I have stroge for you today,” he would probably think I wanted him to take out the garbage.

“Playful” love is ludas. I consider that the exuberant hug from a grandchild.

Enduring love is pragma. It might be the best kind of love as we age, but I’m still gathering evidence.

The kind of love to worry about is philautia or “self-love, selfishness.” Too much of that in its extreme form prompts the caring regard people have for you to erode over time. If you give evidence of a lot of that kind of narcissistic loving and living in your life, you eventually end up old and unloved by almost everyone. There is also mania or “obsessive love.” It is thought by some to be an imbalance between eros and ludus. That too should be avoided if possible. Or at least get it out of your system early on.

There is an online document titled “Famous Definitions from 400 Years of Literary History” compiled by Maria Popova. For me, the most memorable inclusion was lifted from a letter the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins sent to his 10-year old daughter.

He was trying to explain to her the importance of evidence. He started with, “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only with what you are expecting to give.” The “evidence” that somebody loves you is taken from the tidbits of any given day, the revelation that your inside feelings come from the outside things that back up your experiences — a mother’s touch, a tender look, a returned favor. Love for the ages.”

If that is not enough reminiscence, I offer you a book titled “The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living.” The author is Ira Brock. It’s a simple, insightful way to explore and nurture love — at any age.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharon@rbtrv.org.