“They were married almost 62 years, and as she fell ill, she told him “thank you for giving me such a wonderful life” and he said “thank you for making my life wonderful.”
I was thinking about commitment and remembered a note I wrote on Facebook after interviewing two octogenarians for an oral history project I was working on. I was moved to tears many times hearing them tell their stories even though the topic was unrelated. I thought I’d share a glimpse of what REAL commitment looks like, sounds like, talks like. What “til death do us part” means….
I am so grateful for the journey that led me to this particular life event.
(the link to the original note is in red above, but is posted below)
I’m learning about lifetime love -I’m talking about love between married couples that starts before “I do” and literally lasts until “Death do us part.” This lesson started to unfold just in the last month or so, as I started a new project documenting a black banking legacy, conducting oral histories of folks who are in their late 70’s, 80’s and yes, 90’s. It is amazing how God works in the strangest ways, and certainly at the start of this venture I didn’t think that “lifetime Love” was on the agenda. I’m learning more and more that love is always on God’s mind, you can find it anywhere, everywhere because it is the essence of who He is.
2 different stories have anchored themselves in my memory- one from an 89 yr old gentleman and the other from a lovely reserved woman in her mid 80’s. Both had lost their spouses recently, in 2008, and in both instances, as they shared their stories about their banking experiences their relationship with the spouse came up with all the love and longing, as if it were yesterday.
The gentleman said when he first saw, met his wife, he proposed on the first day – He was newly arrived in Washington DC to participate in the GI’s promise of college education at Howard – Howard was full so he went to American University instead even tho’ he still lived in Howard’s dorms. He went to get a bite to eat and said he knew when he saw her over 60 yrs ago that she was his wife and so he told her so. She brushed him off time and time again, as he would frequent where she worked as a waitress, hostess. At one point, she told him to leave her alone which he did for about 2-3 weeks. Then he got a call from her inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner at her parents house. He gladly accepted and when he went over there he proposed to her again, asked her father and they were married several months later. All of this happened in a period of months! They were married almost 62 years, and as she fell ill, she told him “thank you for giving me such a wonderful life” and he said “thank you for making my life wonderful.” Upon hearing those words spoken so tenderly and lovingly, my heart swelled and I was speechless. This was a lifetime love story. When I asked how he knew she was the one – he just replied, I knew. The decision was made and that was that.
The woman I interviewed had a similar story. She met her husband because he just happened to ride down (from Wash DC ) to North Carolina with a friend who was smitten with her sister. Upon seeing her, he was also taken and asked her if he could come down to visit her. She sort of brushed him off too, but he kept visiting her since his friend kept making that drive down to North Carolina. He was persistent and almost made the drive every weekend. He started coming by himself. He was on a mission one weekend, because even Hurricane Camille and the flooding that ensued could not keep him away. He proposed that weekend and they were married a few months later on New Years Day 1955. She followed him to Washington DC where they made a life together for over 52 years. The faith, the love, the mutual respect was so evident in her voice.
I learned that things were not perfect, but in both instances, their commitment to each other and mutual respect and love endured the imperfections. The honor and pride that they took in their respective spouses and celebrating the decision & commitment itself made so long ago was at the heart of these lifetime love stories. They took seriously (held sacred) the covenant and the vows they made to each other before witnesses and before God.
So many times we get stuck in “what have you done for me lately” syndrome. This works/performance-based “love” is doomed to failure if one’s performance slips. What is implied is, ” I’m with you” for better, richer, and in health. If perchance, things gets worse, poorer and in sickness then I’m not so sure how that is going to work for me.
This culture shuns commitment, makes light of marriage vows — it welcomes those contingency clauses that help us wiggle out of commitment – to limit exposure. Tell me this… How do limit exposure on a life time commitment??? Breaking a lifetime covenant should be costly… it should be punitive, and it should make us think twice (or 70 x 70) before rendering void a sacred commitment.
But these beautiful stories so poignantly illustrate that, lifetime love is a decision you make. It is built on foundational principals of respect, honor, humility, gentleness, hard work, humor and resolute commitment to honor your word. This is why we love to see Obama’s – we see the mutual respect, the honor, the gentleness, that commitment, and yes the LOVE. It’s empowering to see people really love each other, and honor and respect they have for one another.
We have all seen the tumultuous winds of changing circumstances, changing personalities, broken promises, and so forth try to tear down or weaken the vows we made to each other. There will be other trials ahead of us, but God has shown me thru the lives of these two wonderful people what lifetime love looks like — and that is what I want! Lifetime love also means lifetime learning and so, I’m really hoping that I learn the lesson that their lives are teaching.