My song today is, ‘How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You’. This song was recorded by American soul singer, Marvin Gaye in 1965. singer from his fifth studio album of the same name. It peaked at Number 6 on the US ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart in January 1965 and at Number 3 on US ‘Billboard’s R&B Chart’. Up to that point, it was Gaye's most successful single.
I recorded this song in March 2020 (eleven months ago). This was three weeks after I had been discharged from ‘St James’ Hospital’ in Leeds. During the previous eighteen months, I’d had six different cancer operations, plus twenty sessions of radiotherapy. I had just undergone a neck dissection which took almost six hours on the operating table, during which time major surgery took cancer from my forehead, down my neck (removing all saliva glands), and beneath my throat. I did not know if the operation had put an end to my singing practice which I have come to love, and this was my first or second song I tried after that operation. I will not pretend that it pained me to sing the song, but it would have hurt me far more had I been unable to sing again after that big operation. I know that cancer in my cheek will spread and that was I to have another operation (which the medics consider too dangerous to undertake as it would be longer than the previous operation). Such an operation would result in the removal of all facial nerves, and leave me with a collapsed half-face (like a permanent stroke victim) unable to eat or speak properly.
For the present, I have decided, (along with my cancer consultant), to do nothing, as life without being able to sing for me would be too great a loss of quality to endure. So, for the moment, I will carry on with my daily singing practice, and both you and I will know by a discernible deterioration in my singing when the aggressive facial cancer is on the move again. Meanwhile, I look forward to having a few hours of exercise and fresh air daily in our allotment between spring and autumn with my lovely wife, Sheila, and lots of new spuds to eat!
Whereas there is no sweeter taste than ‘to love’ and to ‘be loved' in return, ‘falling in love’, on the other hand, offers much more than any saccharine introduction to the sweetness that follows. ‘Falling in love’ is the most enjoyable, exciting, and passionate of experiences imaginable. It is far more stirring than having six sugar lumps in one’s cup of tea, and much more potent than being knocked off one’s feet while floating on a force-nine love cloud. In the final analysis, the ‘falling’ part of the romantic experience represents an exquisite happening, more a ‘letting go’ of one’s wildest imaginations and a willing suspension of one’s reasoning faculties. Romantics allow this to happen by placing themselves directly in the path of a love storm, in the hope that when they eventually come back down to earth that the landing does not result in the shattered expectations of romantic disillusionment.
When I fell in love with my wife, Sheila, the strangest of all consequences ensued. Her selflessness had such a profound effect on me, it was as though it encouraged mine in part. She gave me access to her heart and her home without the asking of either, and I willingly took possession of both. From that first moment I knew I loved her, there was never a doubt in my head that what I felt for her was much more than passion and love. It was an awareness of a lifelong existence between two existentialists whose philosophy and love of life would provide an eternal bond which time itself would not end, or tension fracture, or struggle break.
Such has proved to be the case, and we share the strongest of relationships that a man and woman can possibly enjoy, which is comprised of the mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of ourselves combined in marital union. While I have previously experienced loving and satisfying relationships, I had never enjoyed a spiritual partnership with the woman in my life also, and it is this added dimension that completes the circle of eternal love.
Over the past decade, since we first met on that cold December day in 2010, by allowing myself to be lost in Sheila’s heart and soul, I found myself in a new autumn of my life. It was a season of myself I had not previously known, and I discovered parts of my character I had never before given expression to. Before I knew Sheila, I would automatically shy away from the occasional compliments of others in the behaviour of ‘false modesty’, but since Sheila and I became a single loving entity, I can now allow myself to take the plaudits of others graciously because I know they are never meant for me alone, and that Sheila and I share them as a couple. The more impossible it became for anyone to compliment one of us without praising the other also, the easier it was to receive the goodwill of others as an affirmation about the two of us as a loving couple.
I love you, Sheila Forde. You have made me better than I was and more than I am, and all this happened by taking your hand. For the first time in my life, I have loved a woman more than with my body and my mind. The spiritual dimension to our love (that I have never had before with any woman) will enjoin our lives on earth to the life we shall one day share in heaven. We are literally soul mates, and because of that, even when life on earth separates us when someone means as much as we do to each other, it lessens the distance and shortens the wait before we meet once more.
Love and peace.