Last month I lost my mom (you can read her tribute here), and my dad lost the love of his life of over 55 years. My parents were not perfect, nor did they have a perfect marriage. I know that because I know my own life, and we all have struggles and imperfections.
One thing was for sure – they kept the right priorities of their marriage and family. Despite attractive offers with the FBI and coaching NCAA Division I basketball teams, Dad and Mom always filtered their decisions through the lenses of their marriage and family.
There are no quick formulas for an easy marriage, but I have noticed four things Mom and Dad did over their 55 years together:
They were partners. They each operated in their areas of strength and passion. Mom helped dad behind the scenes because she had the gift of service. Dad knew his success as a coach was largely due to her involvement. After Dad retired to a small community in northern Wisconsin, he was offered the high school girls basketball coaching job of New Auburn – population 458. The team had not won a single game in six straight years. Dad agreed to take the job, but only if Mom was hired as the assistant coach. Together, they took the team to the state championships!
They showed affection for one another. I remember the safe feeling I had growing up as a child when Dad would give my Mom a big hug. The week before she died, she came into the room and gave my dad a kiss. They loved each other and were not afraid of showing it. Dad said they never missed a day without telling each other, “I love you”.
They cared for one another during times of sickness. Several times when my Dad had “close calls” with serious illnesses, Mom nursed him to health. When Mom was diagnosed with cancer, Dad cared for her. His life revolved around doctors’ visits, blood work and taking mom to chemo until the very end.
They never stopped dating. Every Friday night growing up, my siblings and I were abandoned and subjugated to frozen fish sticks for dinner. Mom and Dad were out on a date. They dated before getting married and continued to date for 55 years.
We left their home on the lake in northern Wisconsin after spending a week with Mom and Dad; I asked Dad what was the secret of maintaining love and marriage for so long. He looked at my Mom and started singing, “We’ve only just begun…” She died unexpectedly three short days later. He held her hand as she passed into eternity and said he had lost the love of his life. And indeed she was.
What do you do to keep the fire burning in your marriage? What do you need to start doing again to rekindle the sparks?
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