This Valentine's Day, I'll be celebrating long-term love

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It's strange how you don't see many Zimmer frames, wheelchairs or hearing aids on Valentine's Day cards. They mostly seem to be full of young love, hearts and roses.

Young love is wonderful and beautiful, full of optimism, and plans and hopes for the future.

But love in later life is precious too. It is a love that has been forged through years of shared experiences and joy, maybe raising children together, perhaps enjoying grandchildren.

It's a love that's stood the test of time, and is deeper than any shop-bought Valentine's Day card can describe.

In normal times, that long-term love might be shown by the devoted wife or husband visiting their spouse in a care home each day, gently talking with them when they are, perhaps, deep into dementia. Or sitting for long hours by a hospital bed.

Sadly, Covid-19 has separated so many of these lifetime partners, even at the point of death.

As a priest, when I marry a couple and take them through their wedding vows, I hear them make their lifelong commitment "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part..."

It's wonderful to see the bride and groom smiling, and enjoying this precious moment, making vows that will, hopefully, span the rest of their lives. I love taking weddings - it's an immense privilege to be part of a couple's special day.

And I find myself pondering what the future will hold for them. I wonder what shape that lifelong commitment will take, as I pray a blessing on their marriage.

'Love is patient. Love is kind.' These are familiar words from the popular wedding reading in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. That patience, that kindness are qualities that can develop over years of marriage.

Just how much patience will be needed in the years ahead is seldom known on the wedding day.

So, this year, as I look at the rows of red or pink Valentine's Day cards on sale in the shops, I shall look out for cards that have a deeper message.

I'll seek out cards that celebrate long-term love. Cards that say something about the joys and challenges of growing older together.

Rev Peter Crumpler is a Church of England priest in St Albans, Herts, and the author of 'Responding to Post-truth' (Grove Books)