Gratitude Day 238
Mon., Mar. 25, 2019
Matthew 5:27 – You know the commandment which says, “Be faithful in marriage.”
Let me introduce you to our dear friends, Howard and Rhoda. On Sunday, they celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary. They have truly lived the commandment, “Be faithful in marriage.” And in doing so, they have set a wonderful example for their family, friends, Hubby Rick and I, and a whole bunch of other people.
I have known Howard and Rhoda for about 30 of those 63 years. Months after I graduated from college, I moved to Baraboo, WI. Eventually, I began attending Emmanuel UMC, where I became acquainted with a whole bunch of wonderful people. One of those couples? Howard and Rhoda.
Sometimes, we meet people with whom having a relationship feels very easy. For me, Howard and Rhoda are one of those couples. Maybe it’s because Howard looks a little like my Dad. It’s not just his looks, but also his personality, which reminds me of my Dad and drew me towards Howard. Maybe it’s because Rhoda loves to play piano. Rhoda and I have played together on many occasions. After I became a pastor, she often filled in when the regular pianist was not available at one of the churches where I served.
Maybe it was because they modeled the type of relationship that I hope I would have if ever I was to marry. I am fortunate to have several couples in my life who understood what being faithful in marriage looked like. After I met the man who eventually became Hubby Rick, I slowly introduced him to some of the people who had become my friends. Howard and Rhoda were one of those couples.
Rick and I had been dating just a few months when his eldest son, Nate, was killed in a snowmobiling accident. I was the pastor for the church where Rick and Nate were members. Quickly, I found myself in a precarious position of not only watching my new boyfriend deal with loosing one of his children. I was also the pastor who would preside at the funeral.
It was January. I was in seminary and attending a short two-week class over winter break. Rhoda called and asked what they could do to help out. I felt I should attend class the day of the visitation. This would require driving two-plus hours to attend class for several hours and then driving back for the visitation. I had slept very little in the last 48-hours. If I could get to their house, Howard and Rhoda would drive me back and forth to school. It was the least they could do.
We left their house at 6 AM so I could get to class by 8:30 AM. As they were dropping me off, Rhoda asked if there was anything they could do while I was at class. I casually mentioned that Rick didn’t have a tie for the funeral. They found their way to the mall, bought a tie and had it sitting in the back seat of the car when they picked me up. Rick still has this tie. Every time he wears it, we recall how Howard and Rhoda bought it for him.
After we arrived back at Howard and Rhoda’s house, I changed clothes and prepared to attend Nate’s visitation. I was in my early 30’s, attending and soon presiding over the funeral for the eldest son of the man I had been dating just a couple months. I wasn’t sure that I was emotionally prepared to do this. I had never envisioned having to do these things. Rhoda simply told me to set aside whatever I was feeling for the next 24 hours and just do what I needed to do. Was it the best advice? It was the necessary advice I needed to hear so I could pull myself together and preside over the second funeral I would ever officiate.
Driving me back and forth the 120 miles each way that day was profound. Howard and Rhoda simply showed up on a day that was so very difficult. There were many things they could not do. But they could get me safely to and from school. They could give me a few hours where I could nap in the car if I wanted. Or talk if I wanted. Or just be with my thoughts. Maybe it didn’t feel like a big deal for them at the time. For me, it was a powerful witness of how they dropped whatever they could have been doing, loved me, and in turn loved Rick, through an awful day in our lives.
This is just how their marriage has been. Howard worked swing shift for years. Rhoda worked days. They raised two daughters and showed up in the lives of their grandchildren day after day. They’ve helped family members and traveled and served through their church. They have lived a wonderful life.
And then, about 15 years ago, Howard was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Over time, his body has changed. He can no longer do the things he loved to do. The Friday golf outings ceased. No longer able to drive, his truck was sold. He went to morning coffee with his group of cronies for as long as possible.
Today, Howard and Rhoda’s life revolve around caring for Howard. A host of caregivers come into their home, morning and night, to care for Howard and assist Rhoda. This has kept Howard in their home, the highest priority. This little army love Rhoda and Howard in the simplest of ways. It’s very easy for them to love Howard and Rhoda, as they first model love to everyone they meet and know.
Yesterday, when asked how many years ago he married Rhoda, Howard knew it was 63. He spoke about what the day was like and recalled details that surprised Rhoda and me, all while sitting next to the love of his life, eating dinner. He smiled as he shared. This was the greatest gift he could have shared with the woman he has faithfully loved all these years.
When this couple said their marriage vows all those decades ago, I doubt they understood what “for better or worse” exactly meant. However, they have truly lived it. “In sickness and in health” aren’t just words for Howard and Rhoda. They live their commitment to each other, day in and day out. In doing so, they model beautifully an example for their family, their friends, their caregivers and yes, for Hubby Rick and I, of what being faithful in marriage looks like.
Rick and I know that celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary is not very realistic, as we started this marriage deal a little later in life. Sixty-three-years of marriage? Impossible. Yet, we feel very fortunate to have several wonderful examples of couples who took the command, “Be faithful in marriage” to heart and chose to live this command faithfully throughout their marriage. One such couple? Howard and Rhoda.
Thank you, Howard and Rhoda, for unconditionally modeling love towards each other, as well as towards Rick and me. We celebrate your marriage and commitment of being faithful in marriage. Hug each other today and think of us.
For the witness of being faithful in marriage, I am grateful.
Holy God – thank you for bringing such special people into my life. I thank you for powerful witness Howard and Rhoda exhibit of being faithful in marriage. Be with those couples who live daily with non-curable illness. May your grace be a part of today. Amen.
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