According to “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, one of the five ways that people express love is through acts of service. It wasn’t until after my husband Jimmy died when I consciously recognized that his primary love language was acts of service.
Some examples, in a completely haphazard, non-chronological, and stream-of-consciousness order:
– Three pans of lasagna, carefully layered like his Little Grandma used to make them, with fresh basil leaves garnishing the top, as one of many dishes to serve to our family on Christmas.
– Our home was completely destroyed by a hurricane, and he spent 2.5 years using his skills as a carpenter to rebuild it with the strength of his own hands, arms and legs, while simultaneously working full time as a NYPD homicide detective. Oh, and let me not neglect to mention that, on the day after that hurricane, he stopped pumping the water out of our house and stopped stripping every single thing out of our house – so he could go on duty and help other hurricane victims.
– It made him feel good to send me off to work with breakfast for my train ride. Knowing that I was trying to eat healthfully, he’d carefully toast the whole wheat bread, make an egg white omelette with spinach and Alpine Lace Swiss, add hot sauce and ketchup, slice it in half, wrap it in wax paper, wrap the wax paper in aluminum foil, then wrap the whole thing in a kitchen towel to keep it warm. And, inside, he’d always tuck a rectangular yellow post-it with a little love note on it.
– I called him once to tell him I was with AAA and waiting for the guy to fix my flat tire. Jimmy was really mad at me. He said, “you should have called me first. I would have fixed it for you.” He was the first person to make me realize it’s okay to ask for help, and I don’t always have to solve the problem by myself.
– Whenever he would send me flowers, which was often, he’d always send one bouquet to my office and another one to our home. And he’d max out the character limit on the gift card, telling me how much he loved me.
– As a housewarming present for Jimmy, when we were finally moving back into our home after years of rebuilding from hurricane flooding damage, I had a sign made for him on an old piece of driftwood, and it said: “The House That Love Built.” That’s what he built for me and our family. He didn’t just build any old house. He quite literally put blood, sweat and tears into building a perfect home for us. Everything is level. Everything. Where the floors transition from hardwood to tile, there are no saddles; the floors seamlessly and smoothly pass from one type of flooring to the next. All of the lines are perfectly straight. And, speaking of those hardwood floors, he was the one on his hands and knees laying those down for a week.
– When our daughter was born and it was time for me to return to work after maternity leave, Jimmy took retirement from the NYPD so he could spend time with his baby girl. He said he didn’t want her in the care of anyone but a parent until she was old enough to be able to express what she needed. It was right that second when I realized how deeply he loved our baby girl.
– His custard French toast made with challah bread, topped with blueberries, strawberries and powdered sugar, and, on the side, brown sugar baked bacon. Don’t forget the warm maple syrup from his family’s farm in Vermont and the softened butter. I can’t even write more about that breakfast because I miss it so much, but I will say there was no mistaking that that act of service was an act of love toward every friend and family member lucky enough to taste it.
He made everything with love.
He built everything with love.
He gave everything he had, with love.
Grief only lives where love lived first. That means a whole lotta grief lives in The House That Love Built – but, the love is still here, too, and always will be.