Home Couples & Family Psychology Developmental LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVIII. PLATE FIVE: SEPTEMBER SONG (GROWING OLD AND FACING MAJOR LIFE CHALLENGES AS A COUPLE)

LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XVIII. PLATE FIVE: SEPTEMBER SONG (GROWING OLD AND FACING MAJOR LIFE CHALLENGES AS A COUPLE)

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The fire brought out new understanding and appreciation for Bernard as well as Gwen. Bernard came to recognize “how much of my self-image was tied up with my special belongings: skis, kayaks, mountaineering equipment, carpentry tools, etc.” Without all of these “toys,” Bernard felt that he could- no longer express an important part of himself. Yet, like Gwen, he found that these things were not essential to his enduring sense of self: “I have not been diminished even though it may be quite a while before we can replace our expensive toys.”

Even more importantly, both Bernard and Gwen discovered their own inner strength, the strength of their relationship, and the strength of the support and love showed by their friends and family. Bernard recalls that: “On Sunday, two weeks after the fire, we had an open house party in our new home. Our friends brought gifts, including multiple sets of kitchen gadgets and a great deal of love.” He later wrote a letter to these friends and indicated, in part that the fire separated the world into two categories for him:

. . . we got to see the difference between that which is eternal and that which is simply the stuff of this place, and of this lifetime. One of the things that clearly fell into the light and will from now on be recognized as its true nature is the love and compassion from all of you.

Even with this abundant support from friends and colleagues, Bernard:

. . . began to feel weary and sad. I was depressed as I realized how long it might be before we could replace the toys I used most often. I started to return to work a little and school [Bernard has returned to graduate school] was continuing. I was upset at falling behind and at having to drop one course and probably have to take incompletes in the others.. . I was feeling overwhelmed.. . . It now seemed impossible to shut away or set aside the intensity of my emotional experience.

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