My parents were married 59 years when my father died. Dad was 28 days younger than my mother, thus they were in different grades when they met in high school. My mother was dating someone else at the time but my dad was determined to win her heart - and he did. After high school graduation, my mother went on to Oklahoma City University as dad finished his senior year. Most days my mother stayed on campus after class to study before coming home. If she came straight home, the streetcar she rode would let her out right in front of the high school where my dad attended. When dad heard the 2:30 p.m. street car pull to a stop, he went quickly to the window of his math classroom to see if my mother was getting off. If she did not, he went back to his seat. If she did, he gathered his books and walked out of class, down the stairs, out of the building and then walked my mother home. Dad was a good student and a charmer and his teacher never challenged him for walking out of class. In fact as he would leave he said, “Goodbye Ms. Johnson. See you tomorrow,” and she would answer by wishing him well. The next year Dad joined my mother at Oklahoma City University, and went on an athletic scholarship.
Over the next couple of years they continued dating and wanted to get married. Everyone was on their side except my mother’s parents, who thought she could do better than my dad. For the first time in her life, my mother defied her parents as she and my dad ran away and got married. But by the time I was born seven years later, my mother’s parents had become dad’s biggest fans.
I never realized how blessed I was to be born as their son until I started observing some of my friends’ marriages. My normal was not always my friends’ normal. My parents’ marriage was not perfect but they were always working on it. They really were my model for everything Awesome Marriage.
Shortly after my dad turned 70, he was diagnosed with both colon cancer and prostate cancer. In fact, the cancer news came the same month that he shot his age playing golf (70). Treatment was a process involving surgeries, chemo treatments, and radiation. It was a grueling process and he fought hard. My mother was by his side every day. I really think their strong marriage only grew stronger during those years. It was like everything else they faced in life. They were together and God was at the center.
When dad was 79, after surviving both colon and prostate cancer, he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. There were a few hospital stays but mostly my mother cared for him at home until the last few days of his life. In those last months, I saw my parents show love, strength, and a continued commitment to each other in powerful ways. As my dad’s strength left his body, I saw her strength increase. Pastor Tommy Nelson calls it “the last act of love.” My mother showed a strength I thought was there but had never completely seen it before. It was fueled by her love for my dad and God’s amazing love for her. We buried my dad on his 80 birthday.
My parents have been the inspiration for our marriage. We didn’t want our marriage to be just like theirs because we wanted our own unique marriage. What we did want to replicate was their love, their commitment to each other and to their marriage, and their determination to keep God at the center. That’s a simple formula for an Awesome Marriage.
What about you? Where is your marriage today? Where do you want it to be? Will you put God in the center of your marriage? Will you commit to do whatever it takes?
A marriage like my parents’ does not just happen. It takes lots of effort day after day after day. Change starts with you. Why not ask God for His help and take step one today?
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