July 23, 2010: A lesson in love and sacrifice that leads to peace, by Virginia Anson

“To love and to cherish, from this day forward, until death do us part.”

He peered into her eyes and the love of 54 years of marriage passed between them. Straightening the sheets beneath her chin, he allowed his hands to gently frame her face.  A lone tear escaped her eye. Wiping it free, Dad leaned forward and tenderly kissed Mom’s forehead.

My mom, a vibrant woman who attended daily Mass, spent her last year as an invalid from the stroke that paralyzed her right side and left her essentially speechless. Yet within this devastation, as throughout my growing years, I learned the greatest lessons in marital love from my parents.

Month upon month, Dad made the 140-mile roundtrip journey to be with Mom in the rehabilitation center in Cheyenne, Wyo. — at least three times a week for eight months until a room opened in a facility near their home.  His visits to Mom then became his daily ritual for the last two months of her life.

The post-World War II culture that witnessed my parents’ courtship and marriage regarded their relationship to be an unlikely match. Mom was the product of a German-Catholic family, the 10th of 12 children. Dad is the only child of Baptist parents. Yet they grew a love that time and death could not extinguish.

My parents’ example revealed that marital love — marital peace — flourishes in an environment of mutual respect. Marital peace stagnates within a win-lose mindset. Marital relationships diminish if spouses must yell to prove their sides of a disagreement. Conversely, a spouse does not grow if he or she bows to the other’s wishes just to avoid an argument.  A loving marriage requires respectful communication.

Love and peace within my marriage thrive because I willingly give up a little of what I want because I love my husband.  And I gain a little of what I want because he loves me.

Peace within marriage means striving for unconditional love.  It means tolerance for the annoying idiosyncrasies of a person who is not me.  It is holding hands after 37 years of marriage just to feel him near.  It is consciously remembering that I love him at the very moment that he is driving me crazy.  It is loving my spouse as God does — in spite of human flaws.   Marital love is evident in the small acts that say “I love you.  You are the most important person in my life.”  It means saying “I’m sorry” when I humanly mess up.

True love within marriage allows each spouse to grow as a person and as a child of God. Within this love, one spouse willingly gives up his desires so that she may fulfill a dream that is integrally important to her. Yet, from that sacrifice comes immense reward. We need only look at the cross of Christ to see our model: the ultimate sacrifice that led to an ultimate reward — our salvation. That is the love to which God calls married couples. And working toward that love leads to marital peace.

There is a little secret I have yet to divulge. You see, in my parents’ marriage as in mine, there is a third partner — an all-perfect love that guides my marriage. This partner is our most loving God, without whom deep love cannot grow. Marital love is God loving my husband through me and sacrificing a part of myself so that my spouse can grow in God’s love. God must be a part of every marriage.

All too soon, God called my mom home to be with him. Although her passing relieved my dad of his marriage vows, his heart could not. He visits her grave often, and I’m sure she visits him. The wedding ring she gave him still graces his finger, the symbol of love that even death could not extinguish.

Marital peace, marital love. God’s peace, God’s love. They are one and the same.

— Virginia Anson is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a freelance writer who serves as Writing Center Coordinator at Cloud County Community College.

One thought on “July 23, 2010: A lesson in love and sacrifice that leads to peace, by Virginia Anson

  • April 25, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Sister Loretta: Please note corrected email address.

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