Three Augusts ago, Daniel and I stood under a tulle-covered arch, surrounded by a small cluster of family and friends (and one stray cat that made an appearance halfway through), and we said some big vows. With eyes locked on each other and hearts lodged in our throats, we strung words together one by one until they became big promises.
Looking back, I see now that we were like kids dressed in grown-up clothes, arms dangling in too-long sleeves and feet tripping over clown-like shoes. But that’s the only way to commit to something as big as “till death do us part,” I think. You put on the big promises and pray with everything in you that one day you’ll grow into them.
Just a day after our anniversary, Daniel’s grandparents celebrated sixty-one years of marriage. In six decades, they have raised a handful of children, doted on a dozen-plus grandchildren, and rejoiced over the births of several great-grandchildren.
But then, about ten years ago, Gramma Lo started forgetting things. It wasn’t long before the diagnosis came: Alzheimer’s. The disease that’s a thief, only it doesn’t take everything at once. It steals slowly—one memory, one mannerism, one life skill at a time.
In sickness and in health.
The day before Daniel and I got married, Papa Jack pulled out a small velvet bag. “I wish Gramma Lo could be here this weekend,” he said. “But I know she would have wanted to you to wear this.” He pulled out a simple, elegant string of pearls. “She wore this necklace at our wedding.”
For better or for worse.
On more than one occasion Daniel and I have tried to tell Papa Jack how much we admire him for the way he loves Gramma Lo during this season . . . the way he trims her nails, reads children’s books to her, and patiently endures her insistence that he is not her husband. But he brushes off our compliments and smiles as if to say, “This is not heroic. This is just what love looks like.”
Till death do us part.
As I watch Papa Jack and Gramma Lo, I’m starting to think that maybe love isn’t so much the grand gestures, the significant milestones, the scenes captured in photos. Maybe love is those small moments of choosing to love in the healthy times and the sick times, in the good times and the worse times. And maybe those little moments get strung together one by one, like pearls on a string—beautiful, shimmering, timeless. Something that can be passed on to the next generation, and the one after that.
Daniel and I have a long way to go before we grasp the kind of love we see in Papa Jack and Gramma Lo’s marriage. But by the grace of God and the examples set before us, we will wear these big vows until we grow into them.
And so we say it this year, just as we did three Augusts ago:
For all that is now and all that is to come, we do.
What a beautiful tribute to an amazing couple.
When I visit with Gr Lo (my mom) and my dad is there he often tells Mom how beautiful she is and I always smile knowing that I look like her on the outside and praying that I act like she did on the inside. Thanks Stephanie!
Thank you, Nancy. You remind me of your mom in so many ways–two women who are beautiful inside and out.
So beautiful. And I love this line: You put on the big promises and pray with everything in you that one day you’ll grow into them.
Thanks, Amy. Blessings to you.
Beautiful! Not only do we have to grow into our clown clothes, but we have to continually repair them as time and use can make them threadbare. Thanks putting it to eloquently!
Ah, great insight, Lory. So true.
Sarah Ellcessor says
Such a beautiful post, Stephanie! Rod’s parents have been married for 67 years. His 90 year old dad also suffers from Alzheimer’s. We witness the same kind of love in Madge’s patience and care for him. Thanks for sharing. Happy Anniversary to you and Daniel!
john paulson says
Wonderful tribute to my cousin Jack. His devotion and love for Lois should be a model for all! Thanks for sharing this.
Jack is a great guy…the whole family is! Thanks for stopping by, John.
Well stated and congrats to you and Big D 🙂
Thanks, AT! You were there on our third date. 🙂
Nicole G. says
Wow! I can only dream and wish to have a love that endures like theirs. So inspiring!
Ditto! Thanks for being such a faithful encourager, Nicole!