Unconditional Love

Olga S. Hardman

Today, I took Cricket, my West Highland Terrier, to the nursing home to visit John. Most of the patients Cricket encounters there love to pet her and talk to her. A few, however, don't like dogs and don't hesitate to let us know it. They don't want us to get too close as we stroll along in John's wheel-chair, nor do they stretch out their hands to pet her. Cricket, however, looks at each one in the same way with her black eyes shining and anticipating a friendly encounter. She really doesn't know or care who likes her and who doesn&'t. She approaches everyone in the same open way. 


Today's visit told me a lot about unconditional love. I really saw that those who are able to give love unconditionally will elicit love in return. But giving unconditional love is sometimes difficult, isn't it? Dogs seem to be able to give it more easily than people. {Unfortunately, everyone we meet is not lovable.} It is not too difficult to love those who are lovable, but what about the many who are not? Isn't this where an act of the will comes in?

I don't know about this unconditional love my dog is able to give but I believe that for us humans, love must be an act of the will. Of course, it is often difficult to will something if all the circumstances are not pleasant. Lust, sexual attraction, and physical desire are something else, but I believe true love is an act of the will and that the love of husband and wife requires that it be.

For 25 years I loved John, despite the fact that all of those years were not pleasant and toward the end I completely lost faith in his judgment. After 25 years, I divorced John, not because I stopped loving him, but because living with him had become intolerable.

Now John is confined to a nursing home because of senile dementia. I try to visit him weekly since I am the only one in the area available to visit him regularly. Until now, I thought it was a sense of duty that prompted my visits. Today, however, Cricket taught me the truth. I still love John, because 45 years ago before God and man, I promised to do so until death do us part. This love began as an act of the will then and continues to be so now. 

Olga and her son Mark's dog, BB.

© 1997   Olga S. Hardman