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Monday, November 13, 2006

True Love Stories

Trying to find our own love story for a lifetime is a common human conundrum.

With each potential partner we come into contact with, we wonder if this someone is the one. That second breathing in the night, with whom we'll share the very essences of what we have, so that in turn they'll be the hand that is always amazingly there waiting for us when we reach out.

Yet, as we get older, even though we realise that such loves do exist, we begin to doubt whether such commitments get the endings they deserve.

Or whether they simply become a prelude to a heart-breaking love story.

Life isn't Hollywood

An 80-year-old man who killed his seriously ill wife has been detained under the Mental Health Act recently.

Frank Rhoden admitted the manslaughter of his 83-year-old "beloved" wife Marian, days before their golden wedding anniversary in March this year. Retired headmistress Mrs Rhoden, of Penrhyn Bay, had dementia and the court was told Rhoden was at his "wit's end".

His barrister at Mold Crown Court called it a "deeply tragic case".

On 24 March, the retired electro engineering lecturer strangled her with a tie while she slept in bed at their bungalow. He had given her alcohol to help her sleep. Rhoden then sat for some time in his fume-filled car in the garage before driving the BMW into a wall. Paramedics found him bleeding from a head wound and mumbling: "What have I done?".

Defending barrister Stephen Riorden QC said: "Mr Rhoden killed the only woman that he had ever loved.

"He misses her dreadfully every day. He still talks to her in an attempt to communicate with her. They were only a few days short of their 50th wedding anniversary."

A post mortem examination revealed that Mrs Rhoden would have probably died naturally within days.

A lifetime of commitment ending in this way hardly seems Hollywood, does it?

Head of government or head of heart

Turkish ex-Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit was buried on Saturday, becoming the first prime minister to be buried at the Turkish state cemetery.

During the almost presidential-like funeral of a man who was a political force in his country for half a century, thousands of Turks took part, showering the hearse bearing his coffin with flowers.

Bulent Ecevit, a man of the peopleThis humble man, with his symbolic cloth cap, sky blue shirt and favourite white dove had been the "people's Ecevit" for a long time. All the news reports made the same connections, chewed out the same lines, noted the same ironies.

Studying Sanskrit, Bengali, and English and translating works by Rabindranath Tagore, T. S. Eliot, and Bernard Lewis into Turkish, he was a man who was well versed in the mysticism of the East and Western philosophy. He was a poet politician who had written poems about Greek and Turkish unity, but would one day be almost only known outside his country's borders as the man who sent Turkish troops to Cyprus to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority there, and in doing so displace thousands of Greek Cypriots from their homes.

But as I watched these public images of grief and listened to the news blurb, my mind kept wandering to a more private story about Ecevit that I had heard recently.

Stripped of politics, Ecevit was first and foremost someone's husband and his love affair with his wife is well known and documented in Turkey. He met his wife in his early twenties at college, and they had been together until his death at the age of 81. They never had children.

The story that I kept remembering was during one of the three times Ecevit was imprisoned in his political career, due to his socialist beliefs. So the legend goes, separated from his wife, each night they would light a candle they had given each other. She had a "boy" candle at home, he a "girl" candle in his prison cell, and every night at the same time they would blow the light out and go to sleep.

And as I watched the procession, along with those faceless thousands, I kept thinking of that story, and of the wife he left behind.

Of a woman so committed to her husband's memory that she requested a state burial usually reserved for presidents, even though it would mean she wouldn't be buried beside the man she had loved for most of her life - the man she had missed in those lonely nights, with only his candle's light to keep her company.

Love is not fair, it's a sacrifice

Two love stories, both true, both filled with a lifetime of commitment, and both seemingly united in an unhappy ending.

So, is it fair?

No, but in the true love stories of the Rhodens and the Ecevits there is a similar, more realistic message. It's one that highlights being fair isn't the point at all and looking for fairness is a selfish point of view. True love is selfless or - more correctly - it's thinking of the other self.

Love isn't fair. It's simply your most important sacrifice. And what matters at the end of the day is if you can say your own love story was worth it.

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