Archive for the ‘Family Life’ Category

Silent Birth

The Call

My phone sounds at 9:44 p.m. on Saturday evening.

It is the day after Valentine’s Day. The family was over the night before for an evening together. Our daughter-in-law, Jennifer, at 40 weeks, was having some back pain. A good sign. The first child for her and our son, Aaron, will be here soon. We are anxious to meet our baby girl.

“Mom, where are you?” It’s Aaron, and his voice is urgent. “Upstairs getting ready for bed.” “Is Dad with you?” An odd question. “He’s downstairs.”

“There’s no heartbeat and we’re on our way to the hospital. Maybe she’s in the wrong position or something. Can you meet us there?” The words tumble out in a puzzle that my mind struggles to assemble.

Jennifer, a registered nurse, has had a perfect pregnancy. I have never seen a young woman more filled with the joy of expecting a child. An appointment the day before with Claudette, her midwife, confirmed that Jennifer was in perfect health, the baby in perfect position with a strong, regular heartbeat.

“We’re on our way.” I call for my husband, Sam, to come upstairs and tell him what Aaron has said. He is gone in a flash, taking his truck. I am fumbling for clothes, grabbing keys, in the car, on the road. Praying a one-word prayer: “No. No, no, no.”

Truth

In a small room at the hospital, Jennifer is lying on the single bed, Aaron standing beside her. Tears. “I was having fairly regular contractions and Claudette came by to check on me.”

No heartbeat.

A nurse arrives with an ultrasound machine, all apology and I’m not really trained for this and it’s not the machine we really need which they are bringing down soon. She places the wand on Jennifer’s stomach. A hiss fills the room.

We are uncomprehending. Please bring the machine that will fill the room with the strong steady beat of our baby’s heart.

The nurse leaves with her machine.

We are here, Sam and me and Aaron and Jennifer and the blessed mound of the baby. “Sometimes she turns and it’s hard to hear the heartbeat.” Yes. Find words to fill the thickening silence.

Time passes. Nurses assure us the doctor will arrive soon. I can’t understand why there isn’t more urgency, medical personnel running in and out of the room like in the movies. In the deep recesses of my brain I hear the faint throb of a drum, the threat of doom.

The doctor on call appears, tall and young and pregnant. She is careful and quiet with us. A nurse arrives with the second machine, the one with the truth. She moves the clothing away from Jennifer’s belly and applies the gel.

What is this? Why are we here? Suddenly I have complete clarity and I am horrified. Is it possible there is no heartbeat?

The screen is visible to all of us as the nurse begins to move the wand with one hand while tapping buttons with the other. Images jerk into view, then disappear. More moving, more tapping. The doctor is staring intently at the flickering screen. We are suspended, all of us in that room, in a growing desperation. I hear the whoosh of planets and the rush of the stars.

The nurse. “I’m so sorry.”

A primal cry. Jennifer writhes into Aaron’s arms and there is the wracking sound of hearts breaking.

Realization

The doctor, nurses, midwife all withdraw. Our arms are around each other. How quickly life is shattered. A tiny heart is stilled and we are plunged into darkness.

Later, in the hallway, the doctor tells us how very sorry she is. And that in the majority of these cases, no cause of death is found.

Aaron leaves to call Jennifer’s parents. Frank and Cecilia are five hours away. The drive. How will they bear it? This is their first grandchild and they have been ecstatic. Blankets, beautiful little dresses, some of them Jennifer’s from when she was first born, all have been arriving over the past months to help fill the nursery. The nursery, with its soft gray walls and lavender accessories.

I call our oldest son, Nicolas. He and his wife, Dana, will come immediately. Jessica, our daughter, will stay, for now, with their sleeping children.

The children. Three-year-old Natalia has named the baby Kanga after Roo’s mother in Winnie the Pooh. As the months have gone by, when she sees her aunt she wraps her arms around Jennifer’s belly, kissing Kanga hello and goodbye. I see, in a brief instant, that we are facing a long journey of sorrows.

Nicolas and Dana arrive. Dana is also Jennifer’s birthing coach, her doula. This was to be a home birth with a midwife and calm and oils and a big tub for birthing already inflated in their living room. Sam and I wait in the hall while they go to Jennifer and Aaron. Large framed photos of babies stare at us from either side of the door. I stare back at them as though viewing beings from another world.

Praise

In the room, Aaron looks at us, his face a mask of tears. “Her name is Vanessa Marie.” This was to be a secret until she arrived. Vanessa Marie. Beautiful. It is her name.

Later, I am standing alone by the bed in the dim room. Aaron lies with his arm around Jennifer and their baby. I lay my hands on them and begin to pray. Then, Aaron’s voice, broken: “Thank you, Lord, that we had her for nine months. Thank you that we could be her parents. We praise you, Lord.” I hear Jennifer, her voice distinct between sobs: “I thank you, Lord, that I could carry our baby. Thank for the time we had with her. We trust your will.”

How to comprehend this?

I realize in that moment: this is what it means to raise your children to know God. This young couple on the threshold of the joys of new parenthood is lying together, crushed with grief, yet without a word of why or how could this be. Without a word of bitterness. With praise and thanksgiving.

This hospital room is holy ground.

Pause

Decisions. No, Jennifer will not be induced. Yes, she will receive drugs to help with effacing. Yes, morphine for pain and, hopefully, some rest for what lies ahead.

Nicolas, Lead Pastor of our church, leaves for home. He must be up in a few hours to get to the church to prepare for the service. He will have the painful task of telling our close-knit fellowship the terrible news. Jessica arrives a short time later, her face swollen from crying.

We wait. Aaron and Jennifer sleep, their forms quiet in the dim room. Dana will sleep on a mat on the floor. The doctor urges Sam and me and Jessica to go home and rest as it will likely be many hours before the onset of hard labor.

It is 2 a.m. At home, I lie down on the bed as though in some disembodied state. My phone rings at 4:30 a.m. Jennifer’s parents have arrived and need directions. Jessica appears and says she will lead them to the hospital. I follow a short time later.

At the hospital, I open the door to their room. Jennifer is awake with mild contractions. Frank and Cecelia are seated, hunched in exhaustion and grief. I hug them. There are no words.

No Normal

There is a moment in these early hours when I am standing at a window by the elevators watching the lightening sky. The hospital staff is changing shifts. Here on the 4th floor overlooking one of the parking lots, I see the small figures of nurses arriving and departing. It is such a normal, everyday thing, going to work, leaving work. Yet nothing is normal. Nothing is normal! I want to scream. There is no heartbeat, there is no heartbeat!

Instead, I turn from the new dawn to go to my precious son and his precious wife and the long, long hours ahead.

Onset

A larger room has been prepared where Jennifer will labor and deliver. It is filled with early morning light, a bit too bright. I help one of the nurses tape large squares of blue plastic over the windows. The staff is quiet and tender with us. Anything we need, anything at all.

Time passes. Jennifer, Aaron beside her, begins breathing through contractions with soft moans. I look at Cecelia wrapped in a palpable cocoon of sorrow and think that she is the living embodiment of every mother whose child has lost a child.

Aaron will not leave Jennifer’s side. At times, they seem to be together in another realm. Intense, focused, moving toward the inevitable.

There is a moment in the hallway when I am standing with Jennifer’s father. He looks at me with swollen, red-rimmed eyes and gestures in despair: “To think they throw them away. They just throw them away.”

Pause

In the late morning, Jennifer asks Dana and me to go to their home and let their dogs out. When we arrive and open the door, the stroller and car seat and big birthing tub are the first things we see. I go upstairs to open the dog’s crate, but I cannot help but walk down the hall to the nursery. The beautiful, light-filled room so lovingly prepared is peaceful. Waiting. I step back, quietly pulling the door closed.

Downstairs, I see Dana deflating the tub, another act of finality. Jessica will come by later and remove all of the baby things to a spare room.

We meet Jessica at my house. Showers. A little rest, then the girls leave for the hospital. There is a knock on the door. Our dear friends, Frank and Paula Magarino, have just come from church. Paula is Jennifer’s cousin. They arrived yesterday from Crescent City with their two girls, hoping the baby would be born while they were here. I had called them in the early morning.

“The church,” Frank says, “took it hard.”

Mystery

Sam and Nicolas arrive from the church. Babysitting has been arranged for the grandchildren.

The nature of this loss is that nature will proceed. Aaron and Jennifer, within a few short hours, have had to accept that their baby will not be born alive and that she will be delivered as though she were. We deal with this reality by getting through the next minute, then the next.

We touch Jennifer, massage her back, make her as comfortable as we can, gently speak the name of the Lord over her and over Aaron. In truth, here in our extremity, I find it difficult to actually pray. Yet on a deep, interior level, I know that we are being lifted and held in the presence of God by the prayers of others. It is the very mystery of prayer. God is here. And He will not leave us.

Silent Birth

As the contractions intensify, Jennifer rises again and again from the bed and lifts her arms around Aaron’s neck. As she breathes through the pain they rock slowly from side to side in a kind of tragic dance. The two of them, fastened together in their love and their covenant, endure the unendurable.

In the late afternoon, as the final stage of labor approaches, Jennifer is moved to the other bed to deliver. Sam, Frank, Nicolas, and Jessica wait in the hallway. Nurses bring supplies. The atmosphere intensifies. A young resident appears. He has a quiet manner and, instead of standing over Jennifer to speak with her, he kneels at eye level beside the bed.

I watch Jennifer as she labors to deliver her baby. How to comprehend the reserves of strength and endurance? I look at Aaron, holding her hand, his face stricken. How to fathom the devotion and the sorrow?

VanessaFootprintOur voices fill the room with encouragement: “You’re doing so well, Jen. Just little more, this time, a little more.” The faces of the doctor and nurses are grave and I see eyes brimming in these final minutes.

A cry from Jennifer, and Vanessa Marie emerges, beautifully formed, still, and silent.

Tender Mercies

A nurse is ready with a blanket as the doctor hands her our baby. She wraps her up and pulls a beanie over her tiny head.

I go out and tell Sam and Frank, Nicolas and Jessica that Vanessa has been born. As we return to the room, the curtain has been drawn as the doctor finishes post-birth with Jennifer. A nurse quietly asks, “Who would like to hold the baby?” Frank holds out his arms with an eagerness that breaks my heart all over again. His tears are the first to fall on her small bundled form.

One by one we hold her.

A pediatric neurologist appears, asking permission to take the baby and examine her. Some time later he tells us he finds no discernible cause of death.

I’m holding the baby when a nurse approaches. “I’d like to give her a bath.” Cecilia and I watch as she lays Vanessa on the other bed. There is a sacred quality in the way the nurse sponges her tiny body and washes her hair. She slips on a diaper, wraps her in a fresh blanket, and replaces the beanie.

Later, we will leave them together, Aaron and Jennifer and their daughter. When they call for the nurse an hour later, it will be the last time they see Vanessa Marie in this life.AaronJenVan

Morning

When I arrive at 9 a.m. the next morning, Jennifer is dressed and sitting on the edge of the bed. She and Aaron are calm, wrapped in an inexpressible weariness. Her doctor was in early, staying to listen, and to answer, if possible, every question. Tests results will take a couple of weeks. They will provide no answers as to the loss of our baby.

Nurses appear, visibly moved, to say goodbye. Aaron leaves to bring the car to the front entrance.

When he returns, a social worker enters with kind condolences and a list of services available should they be needed. The necessary questions, asked ever so gently, still slice like knives into the flesh of raw emotions: Do you have a mortuary? Gravesite? Instead of bags of baby products and a pink bundle of new life, Aaron and Jennifer must deal with the details of death. It is a relief when she leaves.

A nurse enters the room with a wheelchair and Jennifer sits down. I look at her, dreading what I know is coming. Her hands rest in her lap. She lifts them briefly and lets them fall again in a small, sudden gesture of futility. As we move down the hallway to the waiting car, her face is wet with tears.

The Dress

Cecelia wants to purchase a white christening-style dress for Vanessa’s burial. We drive together to a shop called Reverie Baby where the friendly owner, Kristi, greets us. “We are here,” I tell her, forcing the words out, “to purchase a dress for our granddaughter’s burial.” For the next 45 minutes we look at beautiful little gowns. Cecelia is struggling. At one point, I see her, back turned, head bowed, leaning against the counter. But she finds the perfect one with delicate daisies and tiny pleats. She adds a soft lavender blanket, a bunny, small tokens of love.

Dress & bonnet, blanket, bunny, Bible.

Dress & bonnet, blanket, bunny, Bible.

Kristi will not accept payment for the dress.

The Service

The day of burial dawns soft and sunny. When we arrive at Jennifer and Aaron’s home the house is filled with family members, some having arrived from many hours away. We leave together in a long line of vehicles.

At the memorial park, we pull into the cul-de-sac and step out. A large crowd of church members and friends waits at the bottom of the gentle slope. And something tiny and white. Jennifer glimpses it and turns into Aaron’s chest with a sob. A few minutes later we sit in chairs in front of the small casket adorned with flowers.

Sam speaks first. I think of the many times he has, in pastoral ministry, stood before grieving families with words of comfort. But we would never have imagined this day. Through his own tears he speaks of the gift of hope, of resurrection, of a sure reunion with this child we love so much.

Nicolas follows. “Her eyes were never open in this life,” he says. “But, just think, when she did open them, the first thing she saw was the face of Jesus.”

Comfort

There are times when grief is a tide sweeping away everything before it. I see Vanessa Marie’s perfectly round face crowned with curly reddish hair. This is not all there is. The soft arch of tiny brows above eyes we would never see in this life. We see through a glass darkly. The impossible softness of her cheeks. But then face to face.

I had purchased a small pink Bible to be buried with Vanessa, inscribing a paraphrase of David’s words in II Samuel 12 after the loss of his newborn son: You cannot come to us, but we will go to you. Someday the veil between this life and the next will be torn away. Aaron and Jennifer will be reunited with their firstborn daughter. God will have wiped away all tears and banished all memory of this parting.

For now, we remember with sorrow and with thanksgiving.

The Lord gives.

The Lord takes away.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

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Note to My Readers on Our Loss

solideogloriaOn Sunday, February 16th of this year, our granddaughter was stillborn three days before her due date.

I began an account of her birth almost immediately, but found I could only work on it for short periods of time. Grief must do its work and the writing, while cathartic, was painful. There is a fine line between conveying the truth of an experience like this with all of its deep emotion, and coming off as maudlin. Special thanks to my Writers Group, Janis Coverdale and Jeanette Breaux, for reading the story with such love and care, and helping shape and edit with such skill.

My purpose in writing our story was to honor the child we lost, to honor her magnificent parents, and to honor the Lord we trust. I will publish it tomorrow. It is long, but I hope you will read and, indeed, share it.

Soli Deo Gloria. All glory to God alone.

How We Ended Up as Medical Tourists

So I had a big birthday coming up last fall and told my husband I wanted us to go diving in Costa Rica, AND visit an interesting mission work we knew about there.

Well, it doesn't exactly happen on the beach.

Well, it doesn’t exactly happen on the beach.

Okay, he said.

This simple request is the reason we are now in Costa Rica deep in the Realm of Dental Implants.

Let me explain.

Sam has been putting off serious dental work for years. Recently, as a specialist examined his teeth with great interest, Sam asked what he saw in there. “A BMW,” was the reply.

This launched him on the search for dental work elsewhere. Slovakia. China. Thailand. As you may know, doctors all over the world are getting their training in the U.S., then setting up shop in their home countries and drawing clients from all over the world. The result is “medical tourism” and it is growing at a rate of 15-25% annually.

Sam discovered Doctor Munoz, and his son, Doctor Marco, and their state-of-the-art-dental-implant-specializing clinic in San Jose, Costa Rica. The savings for medical tourists in Costa Rica are between 40-65%.

This would mean spending an older model Chevy instead of a brand-new Beemer.

Sam contacted the clinic, sent scans, and we made plans to leave in mid-November. Sadly, I tweaked a nerve while exercising and we had to postpone our trip until January. We again made plans. Sadly, our length of stay had to be cut in half as he had to be back for a meeting.

This is now a 5-days-at-the-clinic trip and a weekend visit to the mission.

It has been an education, let me tell you.

Our hotel is one recommended by the clinic. “Apartotel Cristina” is a clean, comfortable, airy place with a pleasant staff and a decent breakfast served by the pool. It is filled with Americans, a few Canadians, a couple of Germans, and some Russians.  We assume, since the Russians are here to save money, too, that they are not related to any oligarchs, so we talk to them without fear.

Take good care of them and it's less likely you'll end up a medical tourist in Costa Rica.

Take good care of them and it’s less likely you’ll end up a medical tourist in Costa Rica.

Teeth are the topic of conversation. I mean, REALLY, the topic of conversation. You meet a nice couple at breakfast and instantly launch into how many trips you’ve made or where you are in the process or how many implants or bridges or crowns or bone grafts. It’s astonishing. Who knew that teeth could hold their own in so many conversations?

The clinic is spotless and rather small. Waiting rooms are tucked into corners here and there, with various treatment rooms in between. Televisions are on in each waiting room with the inevitable crime drama with Spanish subtitles. CSI, CSI Miami, CSI New York, Law & Order, Law & Order Terrible Crimes Unit, NCIS, Criminal Minds. I do not know what the Latin obsession is with American crime shows, but I’ve seen Horatio take his cool shades off, then put them on again so many times this week, it’s all I can do not to laugh hysterically when the camera zooms in for the trademark zinger.

We discovered very quickly that if your appointment is at, say, 11 a.m., you may safely assume you will see the doctor within the next 4 hours.

But there is no impatience, no irritation. Not by the staff, not by the patients. The young women assistants with their gloves and masks and the young receptionist with her thick, worn appointment book are calm and smiling. And it is tiring to wait for hours, particularly I’m sure for the many older folks. But wait they do, with very little complaining.                                                                   Patience

Why?

  • They are saving thousands of dollars.
  • They are getting an excellent result.

This has been our week so far.

But I must go now. NSIC Ridiculous Crime Plot is starting and I don’t want to miss it.

P.S. Duck Dynasty is here. With Spanish voiceover. It’s a hoot.

At Your Thanksgiving Table

How long since that first Thanksgiving?                                                      Thanksgiving

393 years. Wow. Just think of all those calories.

This holiday is uniquely American in its foods and traditions. And what is its hallmark?  Why,  family, of course.

So here are a few things to think about as you sit at the table today surrounded by the people you love. Or maybe just barely tolerate.

  • Family is a Divine construct. It was conceived by God, designed by God, and, indeed, commanded by God. Go forth and multiply. Adam and Eve decided to obey this time, got busy, and began to do just that.
  •  Strife in families has been present from the beginning. This is an unfortunate (i.e. terrible) fact. The enemy has always had the family in his crosshairs. Why? He understands the power of blood and love.
  •  Family is the incubator of character. Here children should learn how to live, how to properly conduct themselves with other human beings. The family unit is meant to be the foundation of a civil society. More importantly, it is a type of the Church in the loving care of its members – the meaning of “is” here is, I confess, hopeful.
  • That being said, it should also be a place where we learn how to resolve our differences without killing each other in the field.  Our history together, our regard for one another should go a long way toward smoothing the rough patches. When these things are not enough, then we ought to learn how to establish firm, healthy boundaries without a blunt instrument.

“Meant to” and “ought to” are rather pollyanish, kind of utopian, you say? Well, maybe. One of the problems, as I see it, is that too many families are birthed with no goal in mind. When this is the case, kids with a wonky attitude are pretty much guaranteed. When they grow up and end up across from you at the Thanksgiving table, all your gifts of grace will then be called forth. Hopefully. And you will end the day having been tested and not found wanting. Hopefully.

I do pray, dear readers, that your celebration will be mightily blessed:

  • that laughter will be the music of your day
  • that the healing power of thanksgiving will be a balm for every sore spirit
  • that good memories will fill the hearts of everyone at your table

I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 12:6

Why I Love My Age

This hangs on a wall in my house. It's true.

This hangs on a wall in my home. It’s truth.

My hundredth blog post and a big birthday coincide. Thank you, dear readers, for thinking with me.

~~~~~~~~

I love birthdays.  For each of us, this is the day I entered the world, drew breath, began my journey.

But this one has been weighing on my mind a bit. It is one of those thinking-back-on-my-life birthdays. With a zero on the end. And it feels sudden, like a light so far in the distance that you’re sure it will always be, well, in the distance.

Then, there it is.

Without a doubt I am blessed. Married to a wonderful man for 38 years. Three children who are mature, smart, accomplished adults, serious about their faith. Two daughters-in-law who would be the envy of any mother-in-law.  And two of the most beautiful grandchildren (and one on the way) who are the delight of my life.

So the journey has been on my mind. And how I got here, and the years left on the ledger. Here are a few of my recent thinkings:

  •  Worry is a waste of life. Not just time, but life. It changes nothing, improves nothing. It subtracts life from your life. I wish had done far less of it.
  •  Growing up without a television has made an enormous difference. Our church culture at the time taught that television was evil and having one in your home might keep you out of heaven. While that is unlikely (we don’t yet know), it does keep you from reading. I (and my siblings) devoured hundreds of books as youngsters and we’ve never stopped. Books have imprinted every facet of my life.
  • The two classes in high school that ultimately made the biggest actual difference were (stop here and see if you can guess): Typing and Home Economics. My typing teacher was a small, schoolmarmish woman who ran a tight typing ship. Her mantra? Speed and accuracy. I have both, thanks to her. And I type nearly every day. And then there was Mrs. Avey, pleasantly plump, thick glasses, and the maven of How to Do Things Properly. Those life skills things like cooking, sewing, health, and first aid.  Which I use every day.
  • I realize now that one must be very purposeful in building a family. Damage, injury, fracture, and brokenness are easy to inflict. Loving without strings attached, going the extra mile, not keeping records of wrongs, sustaining the joy in each other’s company – these can be the hard things. Being intentional in family relationships is, I think, not considered enough. Take nothing for granted, I say. Stand on the wall of your family, arm yourself with prayer, and guard it with your life.
  •  I am thankful that age is not what it used to be. My new age, according to reports that come out from time to time and which I always passionately believe with all my heart, is actually a couple of decades younger. Or something. But, honestly, what years would I subtract? That’s a great question to ask anyone wrestling with the age thing. A year is full of so much experience and emotion and discovery and struggle and triumph and growth and revelation. You wouldn’t dare eliminate even one of them, would you? Me either.

I confess that I like the view from this season. Way more wisdom, a calmer perspective, a lot more patience, and a greater willingness to give the benefit of the doubt. That’s the short list. But a good one.

And I am considering Lucille Ball’s advice: “The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” The first two are easy enough. The last one? Well, maybe I’ll just fudge a little. I’m allowed. At my age.

Do you have any words of advice/wisdom regarding growing up or growing older? Share them here.

Why Parents Must be Social Media Savvy

Recently, my husband and I taught a course at our church on parenting and family life.  While updating statistics for one of the sessions, I was struck by the now-absolute imperative for parents: the need to be savvy about social media.

That word, by the way, means shrewd or discerning.                                                              socialmedclock

Consider:

  • There are more than half a billion internet-enabled devices in American homes.
  • Overlapping use of those devices adds up to an average of 43 hours per day per household.
  • A report in the Washington Post in March of this year states that today’s teenager spends about 7 ½ hours a day consuming media.
  • Among 8-18 year olds, 71% have a television in their rooms.  Only 53% of those households have any established rules for viewing.
  • How many know how to hide what they do online from their parents? 67%
  • How many have given out personal info to someone they don’t know?  55%

And research in 2005 showed one in three 10-17-year-olds surveyed had been exposed to unwanted pornography, much of which included images of people engaged in sex acts or acting out in sexually deviant or violent ways.

 What to do?

  • Understand technology and its shortcoming. Know what social media sites your child’s cell phone plan allows him or her to access.
  • Be sure you have their passwords/access to their online pages or communications.
  • You should be able to limit or disable certain features for added peace of mind. Content blocking software is great, but not foolproof – and certainly no substitute for parental vigilance.
  • Spot check frequently.
  • Set clear guidelines. You might even make a contract with your kids regarding their cell or internet use. Help them see the need to be accountable.
  • Make the rules fit the child. A younger child or less mature teen may require more regulation online than his siblings or friends. Whether or not it seems “fair,” your specialized rules may protect children from stumbling upon situations they are ill-equipped to handle.

These safeguards will be far more effective when you have good communication with your child.  Parents who are intentional about strong relationships with their kids will find navigating the tricky terrain of social media less troubling.

We only get to raise them once. Helping them be smart and responsible users of social media is now, like it or not, part of responsible parenting.

Notes from a Long-term Marriage

“If I get married,” Audrey Hepburn once said, “I want to be very married.”

Who would have thought?

Who would have thought?

Funny. As of this day, I’ve been very married for 38 years. 38 years. I have to sit and look at that for a minute.

Okay. Here are a few things I have learned about marriage so far:

  • The idea of finding one person in all of the billions on earth to live with in reasonable contentment for the rest of your life is – what? –  irrational? Impossibly hopeful?  Or, as writer Elizabeth Gilbert describes it, a “divine accident”? It is, of course, all of those things. That’s the mystery and the miracle.
  • Marrying a person from another culture means you get to do a lot of cool traveling over the years. It also means seeing family far less than you’d like for your kids sake. It’s a tradeoff – one of many in this particular human construct.
  • We bring a lot of baggage into marriage. We may not know how to fight fair. A cleanie won’t be inclined to give up the struggle with a messie. We spend too much or are too tightfisted. In the secret pockets of that baggage we have pouting and immaturity and self-centeredness. Then we discover that marriage is a lifelong unpacking experience.
  • We may think that love is the coin of the realm in marriage. In my opinion, it’s probably the oxygen. Kindness is the currency of the relationship. Two people who practice kindness toward each other are building up a mutual bank account of lifelong pleasure.
  • Children are a wonder. Tiny little people, utterly dependent, landing in our married life with all their noise and paraphernalia. There they are, beautiful and expensive. And the kind of human beings they become depends to a shocking degree on you. You. That knowledge keeps us prayerful. And humble. I confess I still look at our three children and think: “Where did these fantastically wonderful adults come from?”
  • The best marriage advice we can give our children is the marriage we live in front of them.
  • Grandchildren are the grand payoff for having kids.
  • Marriage is the comforting presence of another human being with whom we forge, carve, hammer out a life. Broken places? Yes. Stress fractures? Sure. But the structure is sturdy. It shelters the two of us and the family flowering under its roof.

So, happy 38th to my wonderful Sam. Truth is, the success of our life together is due largely to you and the loving leadership you have provided me and our children. I love being very married to you.

 

 

 

 

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