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I had breakfast with a group of friends this morning, and what began as a simple “How are you?” soon became so much more. As I grow older, I appreciate the honest answers those of my vintage and beyond give to such simple questions. It is as though we realize life is too short to gloss over truth and reality anymore. Life can be tough as we and those we love age, and the sooner we feel free to acknowledge that, the sooner we are also free to offer and receive love, understanding, and support to and from our friends.

Each of us at breakfast was dealing with or has dealt with some form of dementia in a loved one. We know the hurt, frustration, and horror of our loved one no longer recognizing us on a consistent basis. We have watched our loved one disappear into a fog of forgetfulness and fear. We know how difficult it is to always be called upon to be strong, plan for all possible contingencies, stay cheerful when the bottom of our world is falling apart.

So through our conversation about dementia in general and our own experiences in specific, we kept coming back to Christ’s message of love. Not the Valentinesy roses and chocolates kind of love, but the love that gives us strength to bathe and dress our partners or our parents when they have forgotten how buttons work, the love that lets us listen to the same story this afternoon that we were told two minutes ago by our partner who has no recollection of telling it in the first place.

That same love that Jesus modeled for his disciples and followers so long ago allows us to tell our hurting friend, “If you need anything — a break in routine, a bad joke, a meal — just call and we will come.” And that’s the whole point of our belief, isn’t it? We are to love, as Christ loved us. It isn’t the most important thing He taught; it is the only thing.