love·bird [ˈləvˌbərd] noun.
1. a very small African and Madagascan parrot with mainly green plumage and typically a red or black face, noted for the affectionate behavior of mated birds.
2. informal (lovebirds) an openly affectionate couple.Oxford Dictionary
You’re probably wondering why I would bring up the subject of Lovebirds outside of Valentine’s Day. Well, let me tell you about lovebirds.
Two Species of Lovebirds
There are two species of lovebirds. The first is a tiny African and Madagascan parrot with mainly green plumage and a red or black face. Social and affectionate, their name comes from the parrots’ strong, monogamous bonding and the long periods which paired birds spend sitting together. Lovebirds mate for life and live on average 20 to 30 years. When two lovebirds appear to be kissing, they are actually grooming each other. According to legend, when one lovebird dies, the other becomes depressed and soon after dies of a broken heart.
A Second Lovebird
The second species is openly affectionate couples. Evidence of this species dates back to the thirteen and fourteenth centuries in Celtic mythology in Ireland, Scotland and Wales with Aengus, the god of love. He was shown with tiny birds flying around his head (see above.) If you’re interested in Celtic Mythology, check out Wikipedia’s page on Aengus.
Lovebirds and Valentine’s Day
The first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is believed to be in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules. Written about 1381, in The Parlement of Foules, Chaucer dreams he is taken into the sky and shown heaven. He describes a pagan heaven where all the birds come before the goddess Nature to choose their mates; all the birds on the Earth, that is.
Lovebird Heartbreak and Heart Break
Openly affectionate couples are often called lovebirds. I’ve noticed amongst the people I know that the longer the couple is together, the more they behave as lovebirds. Sadly, I’ve witnessed when lovebirds are separated by death, the surviving spouse dies not long after of a broken heart.
Research shows the death of a close person can actually cause serious heart problems. For example, one study found that people whose partner died were at a significantly higher risk for atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat and that the effects are lasting. In another study, researchers found that people who had lost a partner were 41 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation in the first month after losing their partner than people who hadn’t. A higher risk for the condition continued for a year. (Source: Time magazine, 2016)
Lovebirds I Have Known
I have lovebirds in my family. I’ve witnessed those who have died of broken hearts. My husband’s parents were married for 63 years. Unfortunately, my father-in-law, Joe, passed a little over a year after his wife, Ida. Although he had dementia, he grieved the loss of his wife and asked for her constantly.
My Parents’ Lovebird Story
Jim and Peggy Ragland
My parents had been married almost 65 years when Dad died in January 2021. But unfortunately, mom’s health has steadily and rapidly declined over the months. As the research predicted, my mother’s heart problems worsened, as did all of her health. I wonder if Mom has lost her purpose of taking care of Dad? Now she talks about being tired and wanting to be with Dad.
Now Mom is in hospice. The nurses have advised they don’t expect her to live long. I wonder if her death certificate will state the cause of death: lovebird, broken heart.
My heart is breaking,
Debora Ragland Buerk
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