A marriage built on faith, perseverance

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2013

I was making patient rounds one afternoon, when I stopped at patient’s room door which was not quite closed.
I knocked before slowly peering inside.
An elderly, gray-haired man was standing at the patient’s bedside. Walking over to him, I introduced myself as the hospital chaplain.
When he looked at me, I could see the pain in his face as tears ran down his face.
We shook hands. After a quiet moment, he said, “This is my wife of 67 years and she is dying.”
I said, “I am so sorry.” I looked at Mrs. Jones as she slept; her breaths were shallow, but she looked so peaceful.
It was then that I noticed we were not alone in the room. Their two children sat next to the wall, tears streaming down their faces.
I said to this hurting family, “I can see that your wife and your mother is well loved and that she has loved all of you. Sixty-seven years is a long time to be married, especially today; what a great blessing for all of you.”
I asked Mr. Jones, “Where did you meet Mrs. Jones?”
He shared their story. Both of them had grown up on neighboring farms and had known each other most of their lives.
When he was in his teens, he was in town with friends and saw her with her friends. He found himself studying her; something about her was different.
He began calling on her. They got married just before he went into the military.
He related some of the milestones in their 67 years of marriage, which, of course, included smiles, laughter as well as tears sometimes.
Occasionally he shed tears in the telling of their lives together. And the children shared memories as well and some brought smiles, even laughter.
I asked Mr. Jones, “What kept you together for 67 plus years?”
He replied, “It has been our faith, love and perseverance. It was not always easy. We didn’t always agree. There were times we had nothing, but we had each other and our family. There were times we were sick, hurt, broke and broken, but we never gave up.
“We loved each other too much to give up or give in. We both worked hard in life and in love. That is what makes this so hard, seeing her go.”
I expressed to Mr. Jones and their two adult children that their relationship, their love and faith will leave a legacy. She will be missed as a wife, friend and mother.
We then prayed together at the bedside, thanking God for her life, and asking God for comfort as they begin to accept and celebrate her life story.
The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:13, These three things continue forever: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.
I said, “Mrs. Jones will always be with you. The memories you and your children have is a testament to her life.”
This man and this woman gave the gift of true love to one another and shared that love with their children. It is this love that helped them persevere in facing life’s challenges and creating a lasting marriage.
I am reminded each day what is important, by the stories of others facing life and death.
Relationships, love, faith in God, life stories, hope and perseverance are at the heart of our lives; not so much by achievements, money or acquisition of material things.
These are only small details in the greater story of relationships.
I have found that being a part of someone’s life story is truly a gift from God.
Rejoice in the relationships that you have with one another…for the greatest of these is love. So, love one another.

James Cook is the chaplain Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.