For Better or for Worse…

Neala and Lincoln,

Today is November 4. Just an average day for many.  But not for JoJo.  Today would have been my parent’s 38th wedding anniversary.

When my parents got married, they had already been together for three years. Here is the story of how they met:

JoJo was in the fourth grade when she met your PawPaw.  She was best friends with my dad’s sister, Terri. Since dad was six years older than mom, he didn’t really notice her when she was younger. But as she got older, they took an interest in each other.

Like so many dramatic teenage love stories, they would date then break up.  Date, then break up.  The drama continued until the Sunday my mom was invited to church.  She made a decision that day to accept Christ into her life. Up until then, partying was the norm for her and my father. (They grew up in the 60’s and 70’s.  Since you were born in the 21st century, it’s possible you don’t know what this means. I will help you google. Please don’t search by yourself, because there is NO telling what images may come up!)

The day JoJo accepted Christ she knew her life had to change. She called my dad immediately and told him she was done with the partying lifestyle and everything that came with it. She had made a decision to live for God. And it stuck.

Dad wasn’t exactly done.

So they broke up.

A few weeks later my mom called a mutual friend, Bill, for a ride to church.  She was getting baptized and needed someone to drop her off.  When my dad heard Bill was taking my mom, he was so upset.  Even though there was nothing going on between Bill and my mom, daddy was still super jealous.  (this makes me giggle a little)

He followed them all the way to the church.  As if that wasn’t enough, he got out of the truck and screamed at Bill to leave her alone.  It was a huge ruckus, arms were flailing, curse words were flying, and mom was mortified.  Oh how I wish I could fly back in time to watch all the commotion.

My mom finally went in the church and was baptized.  The next morning, dad called her crying.  He told her he knew he needed God.  He was tired of his life and knew he had to change.  My mother led my father to the Lord that day.

The next day, all his friends came over to do what they typically did- party.  He told them he was done with all of it and they needed to leave. He told them he had made a decision to follow Christ.  And it stuck.

Her decision to follow Christ led to his decision to follow Christ.  They soon got married and raised all three girls in a godly (sometimes extremely strict) home.
Their decision to follow Christ changed their lives.  It not only changed their lives, it changed the trajectory of my life, and my sisters’ lives.  Their decision has ripple effects which are even affecting the two of you now.

When my parents got married they repeated the “traditional” wedding vows.
I, Jo, take you Don, to be my wedded husband.
To have and to hold, from this day forward. 
For better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death do us part.

I’m sure when my mom recited those vows 38 years ago she had no idea what would unfold.
My mother would see the poorer side more often than the rich, as dad’s job with the union meant lots of layoffs.
She chose to stay home with us when we were younger, even though one income barely met our needs.

Want to know something?  Growing up I never knew we struggled so much financially. I always felt safe. I never felt hungry. I always felt loved.

Was their marriage perfect?  Uhhh…no.
Did they fight?  Yep.
Now that I’m married do I understand why they fought?  Abso-stinkin-lutely.

For the past seven years, my mom saw sickness more than she saw health.  Again, she stayed true to her promise.  She took him to countless appointments, procedures, and follow-ups.  She organized his cocktail of daily pills. Every surgical attempt to remove the cancer meant sitting for countless hours in hospital waiting rooms. Then days in the hospital as he recovered.

I’m certain there were times she wanted to quit.  I know there were times she prayed and asked God, “Why?”  or, “When will this end?”

So many times people would call dad to check on him.  They would send him cards, flowers, gifts, etc.  More often than not, people would forget to ask how mom was doing.  It’s so easy to forget about the caregiver, when they struggle just as much as the patient, just in different ways.

Yet, my mother stayed true to her vows.
For better or for worse.
When the smell of popcorn filled our home and friends and family gathered around our tiny kitchen table to play cards.
When money was tight and stress was high.

In sickness and in health.
When he was young and strong and renovated the old farm house.
When his body was too weak to get off the couch.

Till death do us part.
When he became unresponsive and we knew the end was near.
When he took his last breath and entered heaven.

A memory forever etched in my mind is my mother standing at daddy’s casket. The funeral was over and the casket was about to close for the last time.  All the girls took a turn next to the casket to say our final goodbyes.  Mom walked up alone and I saw her touch the casket. She said, “It’s not goodbye Don.  I’ll see you later.”

Because of their decisions to follow Christ 39 years ago, my parents will one day reunite. My father is no longer a part of this world. I believe he’s up in heaven causing a ruckus and getting into as much trouble as one can in heaven.  But one day, my mom will leave this world. I’d like to think daddy will be waiting for her at the gates in an old black Chevy.

My mommy heart can’t imagine either of you getting married.  The thought of you going to Kindergarten makes me weepy, so I can’t even think about dating and marriage.
But you will.  One day you will meet someone you want to spend your life with.  You will most likely say wedding vows of some sort.
I hope by then you will have learned love is a choice.
It is not always a feeling.
Love chooses to love no matter what.
In sickness and in health.
For richer or poorer.
For better or for worse.

My parents modeled this completely.
I hope your father and I can too.

covered bridge

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