In Sickness and in Health – until death parts us.

Blake and Sarah said it this afternoon.  Many decades ago Joe and Lota said it, Rick and Tina said it, and Pete and Mary Ann said it.  All of us meant it.  Blake and Sarah are just beginning living out the promises they made.  Joe and Lota, Rick and Tina, and Pete and Mary Ann have lived those promises to their conclusion. 

“What a downer on a wedding day,” you say.  I say exactly the opposite.  While I can’t speak for Joe and Rick, I am convinced they would agree.  Were you to ask any of the three of us now that Lota, Tina and Mary Ann have died, about the the lives we shared with them when we were caring for them, you would not hear about sadness.  We are sad that they are gone.  We are not sad about the time we shared with them.  We feel honored that we got the chance to keep our promises.  We got the chance to love in a way we could never have imagined when we made those promises. 

People do not have to care for their Spouses though serious illness to love them.  While none of us would choose for our Spouse to endure a debilitating illness, if that opportunity comes it can teach a kind of love that adds multiple dimensions to a marriage.  A couple of years ago, while I was in the last months of full time caring for Mary Ann, there were two weddings I was planning to attend.  Each time at the last minute I was not able to attend due to issues that had arisen with Mary Ann.  In explaining my absence, I told them that I couldn’t be there since I needed to be doing what had promised in their vows.  I got to do what on our wedding day I said I would do. 

I wrote the previous three paragraphs yesterday.  After the wedding I talked with Joe and Rick at different times and confirmed that I was right in my description of their attitudes.  The message at the wedding reflected the realities that love is a choice not simply a feeling.  It demands work, a willingness to forgive one another.  The result of that kind of love is a lasting relationship spawning much true joy.

The reception provided a few hours with many people from my former parish, people I have known for a long time and have come to care about.  Afterward I reflected on how supportive that community of folks was to Mary Ann and me.  It is a community that is supportive of one another, modeling healthy relationships.  The young people and the little children (many enjoying the reception) have an environment that nurtures concern for others and acceptance of one another.

This morning brought the opportunity to sing in the choir for two services.  Then a couple of hundred of us processed to a neighboring church’s courtyard for an Ecumenical Palm Blessing ceremony.  Many hundreds gathered there from seven different churches in the immediate area.  While there are many and great flaws in church institutions, at their best they can reflect a healing word to a broken world.

This afternoon brought interactions with both of my children via the electronic media, cell phone and Skype.  It is hard to be sad when I encounter the results of Mary Ann’s and my life together.  Our children and their families are healthy, productive, nurturing people of good character who are finding great joy and fulfillment in their lives.  They are living the kind of love that Mary Ann and I experienced, the real stuff.  It is cliché to say, but it doesn’t get much better than that.

After spending time working on the music for the choir tour of Northern Germany this summer, long time friend Charlie and Ann from Kansas City stopped by so that we could get a bite to eat together.  Charlie cared for his wife Marlene until she died a few months after Mary Ann.  Ann also has lost a Loved One.  We caught up on family and friends, enjoying a leisurely meal together.  That visit concluded a good day.

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