In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we wanted to recognize real love in all of it’s forms. Meet Tracy Reading and his wife, Pauli. Pauli was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 54, but Tracy’s unwavering love for her has never dimmed.

When have you experienced smiling, laughing, and loving all at the same time? My next question, is it possible?

From my perspective, not only is it possible, I have witnessed it myself for the past 12,775 days. I know that sounds overreaching, but it’s true. I met my wife Pauli 35 years ago. When I was young it was more about the infatuation, but as the time passed, each of these qualities blossom with more color and life. Sure we have had our challenges like everyone does, but we made a point to strive for these God given gifts everyday.

Our life together seemed like a fairy tale. But like any fairy tale, there was a darkness looming over. Roughly seven years ago, we had an intruder come into our lives trying to rob us of these simple joys. It’s name? Early On Set Alzheimer’s. Just like any villain, its purpose is to destroy happiness. However, this theft underestimated Pauli and me. Allow me to expand a little further. Pauli and I had a core belief in life that if we can strive these three qualities for ourselves and our family, no one could defeat us.

SMILING should be as easy as breathing, at least that is our philosophy. Every time we smile, we are providing a gift to the world. It’s one of the most selfless acts one can demonstrate in their life. Though Pauli is in the final stage of her journey, every time I walk into the room, she lights up like a fire fly with a huge smile. She no longer knows my name, but she knows that I belong to her. Whenever I see her smile, I know that I am loving her.

LAUGHING is good for the soul, at least some say that. I think it’s one step further; it’s good for our health. If you don’t have good health then it’s hard for our soul to shine. Though Pauli is winding down, she can still laugh. We no longer can travel the world, but we travel on our weekly Starbucks date. We love interacting with friends and strangers and we are always laughing.

LOVING is our God given right. If we don’t show our love then we are not living. As challenging as this disease has been, here is the silver lining: Pauli has taught me how to love. Love has shifted from our bed to holding hands, communicating with our eyes, and most important embracing each other.

My gut tells me that I will be saying goodbye to Pauli this year. As difficult as this is going to be, she has given me one extraordinary gift; herself. Pauli has been and will always be my beacon of light. Therefore, as the tears fall and dry, I will continue to smile, laugh, and love. After all that is what Pauli would expect out of me.