A sharp January wind fluttered the curtains in the farmhouse that day. There wasn’t a stage, a pulpit or even an aisle runner. There was just a living room and a small gathering of friends and family. The lack of extravagance didn’t matter as the two twenty-year-olds exchanged vows—vows that would hold for three-fourths of a century.
“My aunt said don’t get married; stay home and take care of me and your uncle.” She smiled, transported into a world of memory.
They courted in a horse and buggy underneath the Indiana stars—a drastic leap from the cars and space flights of today. After the wedding they lived in his parents’ old farmhouse with no plumbing or electricity. Later they built a brick ranch in place of the old farmhouse, but kept the red barns.
“He taught his kids and grandkids how to work and when to quit.” The grandson stood up, teetering slightly with emotion. “You don’t operate a farm like his by being lazy.”
In that rural Bluffton countryside the two of them lived many happy years. Time passed and their number grew. Along came three children, followed by four grandchildren, followed by twelve great-grandchildren. They always had a dog, each one alternating between the name “Peppy” or Tricksy.”
“I remember they had a rental house they offered to a family of Mexican migrant workers.” The granddaughter brightened at the thought of old memories. “The family didn’t have much money and ended up living rent-free. They always did have a heart for others.”
Sunday she sat beside him at the table. The candles said “75” on their cake and family members snapped pictures on their smartphones for the anniversary celebration. Wednesday morning she woke up and asked where he was. Thursday she asked the same question. And Friday and Saturday and Sunday.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
The pastor sat down. “The Old Rugged Cross” was sung—perfect in the multitude of harmonies’ imperfections.
Last Saturday I stood with my hands clasped in front of me and tried not to make direct eye contact with anyone. It was rainy and cold. I pulled my hair out of my face and shifted from foot to foot in the February earth. I looked hard into the freshly etched date in the stone and the casket topped with red carnations and roses. Two pastors made their final remarks and my cousin distributed flowers to each of us female relatives, a keepsake, from the floral arrangement. I observed my great-grandmother as she sat in front of the casket of the man that’s been her best friend and husband of 75 years. Seventy five years of marriage…longer than most people live. I couldn’t wrap my head around that type of commitment. My mind thought “goodbye,” standing there under the rain canopy, but her eyes clearly said otherwise.
“I’ll see you soon my love.”
In a world where things seem to fall apart in a fraction of a second, it’s nice to see something that lasts.