The lid has been closed, the flag has been folded; due honor has been given. The hole has been filled, and as spring comes, grass will cover the barren ground. And so after a love affair of over 60 years, my grandparents are finally reunited in eternity.
Sixty-eight years: three wars, many long deployments with only a letter or Red Cross for communication; three children; a nomadic lifestyle in Africa, Germany, and Japan; alcoholism. It is enough to make a modern-day newlywed cringe- how can a marriage survive that much volatility?
After the funeral concluded, my mom and I spoke about the definition of a “perfect wedding,” and what it means today. Today, a perfect wedding is defined as one in which every detail goes according to plan- the flowers are perfect, the song is just right, the cake is a work of art, the napkins are folded just so, and your vegan guest has a special meal prepared. After all the time, money and fanfare though, what is left? You walk out into the world as husband and wife, just like every other married couple.
A wedding is more than an event, my mom inferred, a wedding is a lifetime.
A lifetime spent living one day to the next, steering through life’s challenges, all the while loving each other. A lifetime spent having children, working jobs, going to church, helping others. A lifetime spent holding one another despite adversity or disagreements.
My grandparents had a basic wedding with a handmade dress made of material the queen would not choose; there was no photographer. To my grandfather, she was the handsomest most beautiful bride in the world, and until the day she died, he truly felt that way about her each and every day.
Their marital possessions included what fit in a suitcase. Off they went on a train to start a new life together. And yet after a meager beginning, they managed to carve a life for themselves over the course of many decades. I haven’t a clue how they survived the rough patches, but they did. Giving up was never an option, no matter how hard things were; marriage was notsynonymous with furniture- if it breaks get new one.
Three children, eleven grandchildren, and numerous great grandchildren are a piece of the pie with which their success can be measured. All of us have wonderful memories and stories to share of the resiliency of their relationship. Up to the end of their lives together, the love they had for each other was evident to anyone who witnessed them together.
Today our challenges are similar, yet packaged differently. Communication is more instantaneous in a separated relationship. There are more books and seminars and retreats and all kinds of things out there. Look at all my grandparents survived, with none of that intervention?
I am not writing this for sympathy; I am writing this because their love and perseverance are so scarce in today’s world. Marriage has become fast food instead of homemade. It is too easy to walk away when things get hard (a mantra infecting all facets of life). My grandparents may not be a part of my world anymore, but there is still so much their lives can teach me. And with any luck, maybe you too.