Death was slowly reaching out his shaky fingers toward my Great Uncle Paul.
This dear man, a silent example of charity, was nearing the end of his year-long, bed-ridden battle with a degenerative nerve disease in his home—a home he built with his own hands for his barely budding family ages earlier. His body was feeble, and his words were scarce. In fact, he would say maybe three or four sentences a day.
I tried to visit him and his sweet wife, Della Mae, as often as I could—always finding myself a better person when I left for just being around their fairytale-like love (some people just have that effect on others, I guess).
When I stopped by one day, almost a week before he passed away, I had a life-changing experience (completely unexpected, as most are).
Della Mae was busily tiding up the living room around Paul's bed. Unassumingly, quietly, and deliberately, Paul raised his gentle hand a few inches from the sheets where it lay.
"Della Mae . . ." It was too quiet; she didn't hear. He rattled out a raspy cough. "Della Mae . . ."
She turned and rushed to his side, eager to accomplish any need of her beloved spouse.
"Yes, Paul?" she cheerfully asked.
I assumed he wanted something to eat, or some medicine, or just have his pillow rearranged.
But what he said surprised me. And his words forever changed me.
"Della Mae . . . I love you, and you're beautiful." That was it. Six words.
Her cheeks turned a deep shade of rose, and a tender laugh escaped her lips. It was so effortless and genuine—the kind of chuckle where you don't even realize you laughed until you are trying to remember minutes later why you are still smiling.
"Oh Paul! I love you too, dear!" With a soft kiss on his forehead, back she went to work, this time a little more slowly.
Before I left, I asked Della Mae how often Paul would express his love like that. Her response touched me: "Every day since we've been married."
Now, being a 29-year-old single Mormon guy, I can be cynical about love sometimes. I know I can. But underneath all of the adventure and hyped-up social media posts, there is just a kid who is waiting. Waiting for that moment when the word "love" can freely fly off my tongue with uncalculated kindness and not be limited by this life or by the barricades of past hurt.
I believe in love.
I believe it's waiting for me. And when I find it, I believe that I can work to make that love just like Paul and Della Mae’s.
And even if you’ve already found love, I believe that an even better love is possible for you.
A kind of love that grows stronger with every loving word that is shared between a husband and wife. A kind of love that transcends death and knows no bounds.
So today, let's commit to the quest for the unquenchable adventure of the possibility of our “happily ever after.” That is the kind of quest that takes work, daily service, and unbaiting affirmations of affection. That is the kind of quest worth fighting for. And that is the kind of quest that allows “love” to find its way into the pages of your own fairytale.
Zack Oates is an entrepreneur, hot tubber and blogger (but not in that order, necessarily). He lived in Ukraine for two years serving an LDS mission and started a nonprofit in 2008 called Courage to Hope, which works with victims of domestic violence in Ukraine. He has traveled to six different continents in six months this year, and yes, he is still looking for a wife. Check out his blog, bowlofoates.com.