For Better or For Worse
Today, Sunday July 9th, is my wife and my 42nd anniversary and we celebrated it at a nursing home. Ten days ago, my wife fell and broke a vertebra in her back. I was at work when my grandson called and said grandma had fallen and couldn’t get up. By the time I got home the paramedics were there helping her into the ambulance. She spent 8 days in the hospital where she had surgery to fuse the vertebrae that was broken. She was released from the hospital two days ago and is recovering at in a nursing home. Today was the first day that she was not in agony with pain; if she was in pain she is learning to hid it better. She had lots of visitors and she was happy and talked with each of them.
In most marriage ceremonies, the minister or court official often tells the couple that they are ‘married in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, until death do you part’. To say that this is one of those “worse of times” that we promise to endure through would be an understatement.
We joked about some of the more memorable anniversaries that we had and we realized this would go down as one of the top. We laughed about another anniversary. We left to go out for dinner when the engine of our car caught on fire. I was running back and forth from the car to a ditch that had some water in it with a cup trying to put out the fire. Yes, I realized after my futile attempts that that type of fire was not going to be put out with a few cups of water. This was before cell phones and so getting someone to go call for help took some time. Our car was towed away and we walked a couple of miles back home. I don’t remember what we had for dinner but it was not as exciting as we had planned.
Fortunately, there have been more “better times” “worse times”. One of the better times was when I was serving on the local city council where we lived and I swiped some city stationary and wrote a letter from some official in the city saying my wife had won an evening on the town and she would be picked up and driven to dinner. When she received the letter, I was “upset” that I was not invited and jealously said she could go. She did not want to do it but I insisted. I promised that we could celebrate our anniversary another night. The car came and the driver came up to get her and they took the long route to the restaurant to give me time to get there before her. When She was escorted into the restaurant and to our table I was there waiting for her. That was one anniversary that went down as a great one.
Marriage is all about how you meet the challenges that come into your lives. Getting through the good times is easy, but enduring through life’s difficulties will either break you and your marriage or bring you closer together. Thirteen years ago, I had pancreatitis and almost died. The doctor told my wife to call the kids because he did not know if I would survive. As you can tell, I did survive but it was a long six-month process of surgeries and recovery before I was able to go back to work. My wife took care of me and was there for me. Now it is my turn to be there for her.
After my wife fell and before the paramedics got there my grandson stayed by his grandmother’s side trying to comfort her. He told her “grandma I don’t know how I could live without you”. He is a sweet tender hearted soul but his thoughts are mine as well. I would be devastated if she was taken from me Though it would be difficult, I am grateful to know that because of our temple marriage our marriage is not just until death do us part but for time and all eternity. The Lord has promised:
“And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.” (Doctrine and Covenants132:19)
The only place that this eternal marriage can be made is in the ‘House of the Lord”; one of the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” Only there can we find one that is ordained of God and has the sealing power that binds a man and a women together for eternity. 42 years ago, my wife and I were sealed for time and all eternity in the Washington D.C. Temple. There we made sacred covenants to each other and with God. Covenants that are more than just promising to stick together in sickness and in health or for better or for worse but covenants that remind us that we are children of Heavenly Father, that marriage is sacred and ordained of God, covenants to be faithful to each other, covenants if kept will help us have happiness in this life and eternal life as families in the eternities. (The Family: A Proclamation To The World)
Successful marriages are difficult, it takes patience, forgiveness, love, more patience, and more forgiveness. There is no place for selfishness. Many marriages fall apart when couples experience difficult times especially when sickness strikes. Believing in the covenants we made to each other keeps us focused on getting through the tough times. I remember one time when my wife was frustrated with me (ya I was not the best in our early years) and she was venting her frustrations with a friend. Her friend said: “Well why don’t you just divorce him?” Shocked, my wife said: “No”. Then her friend said: “then shut up and deal with it”! She took her advice and after 42 years of dealing with me, I think I am learning what “an help meet” is and how to be truly one flesh. (Genesis 2: 18, 24). Listen to the Lord as he describes how to achieve a successful marriage:
“Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” (The Family: A Proclamation To The World)
In the movie “Fiddler on The Roof”, Tevia asks his wife Golda, “do you love me?” He asked the question because theirs was a marriage made by a matchmaker, as was their custom. But one of his daughters had rejected that custom as old fashioned and wanted to marry someone that she loved. He had thought about that and so he asked his wife, “do you love me?”
Golda responded by telling him all the things that she had done for him for 25 years. But Tevia persisted, “Golda, do you love me?” She went on with another list of things that she does for him. But Tevia again says, “no Golda, do YOU LOVE ME?” Golda then replies, if that’s not love, then what is? And Tevia responds: “Then you love me?” And Golda replies: “I suppose I do” Then Tevia says: “Then I suppose I love you too!”
I’m sure Tevia loved his wife for all the things that she did for him, but that was not what he wanted to know. He wanted to know if, despite all the problems and rough times they had, was their 25 years together worth it? Would she do it again? They loved each other enough to sacrifice temporary and fleeting things for those things that would bring true happiness and eternal blessings.
For me our 42 years together has been the “best of times and the worst of times” but I would not trade them for anything. Though I wish that I had learned sooner how to be the husband that I now am, and I wish I had not been so selfish and more patient; I would not trade the experience I have gained as we have gone through our better and worse together. I know that whatever comes in the years ahead, together we will endure it well.
Your comments and questions are welcome.