We had Mom’s funeral on July 3, 2008.  I wrote this in her memory:

I cringed. Dirt doesn’t go with roses. How could the grave diggers have done that? The breathtaking roses mixed with baby’s breath and pink carnations had been atop mother’s coffin. Now, like a bandage on a sore, the arrangement covered part of the hole where her coffin lay. She and Dad had been married almost fifty-six years. This grave ended their union. Warm tears filled my eyes as I gazed at the bandaged wound.

Their marriage hadn’t been perfect.  As their daughter I knew their flaws as well as I knew my own. But in so many ways they created beauty with their united lives. The fact is, I stood by mom’s grave with other members of my family: my father, my brother, my husband, my five children.

I’ve given lots of thought to the verse in I Corinthians 7 that says “…It is better to marry than to burn.” Yes, God established marriage so that we could experience our sensuality to its fullest. Marriage, however, is far more than that.  God commissioned husband and wife to, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

As one man and one woman come together, they bear children—and their focus changes. It isn’t all about their passion. Instead, with mutual commitment, they work together for the future of their offspring. I saw that in my parents.

After Mom died, warmth washed over me each time I found a romantic card they’d exchanged. Mom had passion but confined it to Dad. In addition, she had talent. If she had decided marriage imprisoned her, she could have sold real estate to support herself. With her ability she could have managed a billion-dollar business. But she didn’t, instead she chose her home.  Numerous times she kept my children, and she made frilly dresses for my girls. I’ll never forget visiting home. Mom would offer a pillow for my back and frozen yogurt in the freezer. If she knew I planned to come, she’d cook my favorite dishes.

Marriage limited my father too. He could have chosen to indulge his passions and find another woman. Or with his interest in history, he could have built a separate life as a tour give at Civil War sites in Chattanooga. His love for cars or guns could have consumed him so that he pushed Mom aside. But he didn’t. Mom became his best friend. He helped me with my cars, fixed my vacuum cleaner, played with my kids and sat with me when I researched history in the Chattanooga library.

And so selfless giving forms the core of marriage. Apart from that, who would care for the kids? Or the grandkids?  Frankly, the sex-crazed media never answers that question. Mom and Dad refused to titillate selfish passion. For almost fifty-six years they built a foundation for the next generation. Not perfect—no I saw dirt on the roses, but beautiful nonetheless.


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