So today is my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary and, even though my Dad isn’t here any longer, we still celebrate their wonderful life together and all that encompasses. That I’m here and my sisters are here and my great kid and niece and nephew are here is all because of their enduring love for each other and the life they made for themselves and for all of us.
It’s a bittersweet day for my mother. Losing the true love of your life – as we have just watched President George H.W. Bush do yesterday after a marriage of 73 years – is a pain that never goes away, a wound to your heart that never heals. And these past few months have been tough ones for my mother because of an injury in November that has morphed into more health issues than anyone deserves. If my Dad were here, it might be easier for her than it has been. When you’re one-half of a perfect couple, how do you survive when now your one-half needs to become whole?
The first few days after my mother was hospitalized again in February we were hit with bad and then worse news every day. At one point we were told that the end might be near. And my sister, my brave sister who always does the things I don’t have the strength to do, had to tell my Mom this. She cried, of course, but then she said that she’d had a great life and that she wasn’t afraid to die if that’s what God had planned for her because she’d be with my Dad again. And what better testament is there to their marriage then to know that although your physical life may end, you’ll spend eternity with the one person who was your everything.
When my Dad was dying, we talked a lot the last few days. Besides being sad that he would not see his grandchildren graduate college or get married or have children of their own, his greatest wish was for my mother to be OK. He thought nothing of himself or the pain and suffering he was going through. He only thought of how would she go on without him. And as I have shared several times, some of his very last words to me during his last few hours on this earth were to ask me to promise to give my mother flowers from him on each anniversary.
I have been witness to so many great marriages throughout my life. (My own hellish one notwithstanding). My parents, of course. Aunts and uncles on both sides of the family. My best friend, Jimmy Courage and his kickass wife Laurie. My cousin, Susan and her truer-than-true husband Rich. My friends Lenny and Matt who I miss desperately as we’re now 2500 miles away instead of 25 minutes away from each other. My mentor, Tom Packert and his beloved Mary Jo. My DC girls, some of whom have been married 40+ years. Both of my sisters and their devoted husbands. Some of these people have had decades-old marriages; some have been married just a few years. Some of them got marriage right the first time; some were lucky enough to meet that one right person the second time. They all inspire me.
It’s been a long time since my marriage ended officially and even longer that it truly ended. I used to like to think I’d get married again but for the most part my taste and good judgment when it comes to men is pretty non-existent. The one exception was my one great love who died tragically and far too young just when we though that the future was still ours. So I don’t know if I’ll ever have that great marriage I’ve aspired to. Probably not but I can live with at least having experienced unselfish devotion, understanding and love from someone who truly adored me. That is a gift I cherish every day.
I know marriage is hard work and stressful and challenging but I also know – because I have seen so many great marriages – is that it is a sanctuary, a place where you feel safe and loved, a haven where you can share your joys and fears, a home to come to every single day. And I was able to witness that for the 58 years of my parents’ marriage that my Dad was here for.
So bless you all who have strong marriages. I envy you. And bless you all who have tried to have a great marriage. I am with you in spirit. As Hugh Grant said in that beloved movie, Love Actually, “If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” I hope your love is all around you every single day.
And Dad, Mom got her flowers from you today. I’ll do it again same time, next year. Happy Anniversary!