Dear Matt and Simona,
We’ve been talking about the Front Door, this vision of what kind of life you want to build together. But I think that rather than dish out more advice, I want to tell you a story.
This is a story being lived out right now, one that belongs to both you and me. It is a story of a love that has stretched and grown, endured and triumphed, changed and adapted until it’s ending beckons like a treasure of gold at the end of the rainbow.
My mom and dad— your grandparents— are writing the very last pages of a story that has stretched past 64 years. Papa suffers a terminal illness. Grandma is frail. Yet as we visited them this week, we saw a continuous cycle of one living for the other.
Mom is watching over Dad, feeding him, helping him, fetching and carrying and lending her strength for the daily challenge of living. Much the same as she’s been doing since she first said I do as an 18 year old girl-bride.
And Dad, whose days are a continual struggle for breath, is determined to get Mom settled and set up so that when he goes she’ll not have to worry. Rather than lie still and breath easier, he’s duking it out on the phone with Medicare and insurance and all the complicities mom would not be able to handle on her own. He’s organizing the celebration of life he knows she won’t want to plan once he’s gone. Moving from his beloved mountains so that she’ll be nearer her daughter and closer to the assistance she’ll need.
Their's, we both know is a rare sort of story. What I’ve been asking myself all week is why?
Why are they still married, still happy, dreading their coming separation, grieving each other’s suffering, using their remaining days seeking the well-being of the other?
And somehow, I believe, if we can grasp the why, all the rest of us might have a fighting chance to share in their story of a love that lasts a lifetime.
For the life of me I can’t come up with a list. Only one word runs through my mine as I watch and listen and ask God for the secrets these two seem to know without words.
That’s what your grandparents are doing, Matt. Every day they decide. Then the next day they decide again. And again.
For 64 years they have decided.
When things go wrong and life gets stressful… they decide. To not blame the other, to get a grip on their anger, to be nicer than they feel.
When one messes up and the other feels the effects of that mess up… they decide. To forgive, to give grace, to find the strength to un-remember the offense.
When Papa’s vision for a secure financial future meant mom had to mend her underwear because his strict budget wouldn’t allow the extra expense of buying pretty things… she decided: To turn the whole story into a family joke and bring it back to his wise financial choices that set them up for the retirement of their dreams— and as much new underwear as she could ever want.
When my mom’s passion for history and love of creating beauty led her to start a business restoring and selling antiques… Papa decided: To put his skills to work for her vision that had nothing to do with his interests, and to assign himself the less than lucrative position of COR (Chief of Repairs).
And now, this week, I help them dismantle the house that has held their best dreams, the one that perches on a ridge overlooking the Sierras.
Because they decide: To do what’s best for the other. To make the best of the worst. To let go of what will not go with them so they can hold on tight to each other just a little longer.
And so, my dear Matt and Simona, if you want to write a similar story…
Decide to decide.
Decide to be kind when you feel a surge of nasty.
Decide to be affectionate when you feel like pushing away.
Decide to be friendly when doing so feels fake.
Decide to pinch pennies, to give thanks, to be gracious, to let the hurt heal without drama, to go places and do things you don’t particularly enjoy…
And if you do, maybe someday your daughter will do what I’ve been doing all week: revel in your love for each other, drinking it in like a hummingbird to nectar, watching and learning and deciding…. to decide.
From my heart,
P.S. For those who are listening: What do you need to decide about today? Can you leave us your words to help us direct our thoughts?
(image by Hillary Kupish)