Yesterday my parents would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The last one they spent together was their 47th - along with Sophia, Olivia, and me at Minnehaha Park. Neither could drive on their own - my dad was in the late stages of Alzheimer's Disease. My mom hadn't driven in years because of vision and mobility problems.
The 48th and 49th anniversaries were difficult ones for my mom after my dad died on January 5, 2012. I'm sure they dreamed that they would both be living and planning for their 50th anniversary. Nothing big...just a small family celebration marking such a wonderful milestone.
Because the 50th anniversary didn't feel celebratory in nature - yet we wanted to acknowledge that my mom and dad would have been celebrating this special day had my dad not died, we decided to do something meaningful and low-key.
In the afternoon, my sister (Mary) and I along with our four children collectively joined my mom during the afternoon to commemorate her and my dad's 50-year wedding anniversary. Mary brought a beautiful marble cake decorated with lots of flowers and icing - just what my dad would have loved to eat. We had ice cream and punch with sherbet.
When we arrived, my mom was resting on the couch in the living room. This was perfect because we could quietly place containers of colorful flowers in front of the living room window where my dad used to look out and watch the birds. We also placed them on the deck so that my mom can sit outside and see the colorful flowers up close.
Inside, we put five flowers in a vase on the dining room table. Two of the flowers were red roses to symbolize my mom and dad; and three of the flowers were white carnations to symbolize us kids.
After my mom woke up, we gathered at the dining room table and enjoyed cake, ice cream, and punch together.
Then, I read something that I wrote since there are no cards available that help a person mark a 50 year wedding anniversary when one person in the marriage no longer is alive.
After I read what I wrote, we all went to take a look at the flowers on the deck. We took some pictures, and then my mom shared some memories of the wedding with us, and how her brother (Earl) and sister-in-law (Ethel) had a reception in their basement for them. In each of the rooms, there were displays of all the items that they had received at the bridal showers. She said it was such a nice reception.
Then she talked about the time from June 13th (when she and my dad were married) to when they moved into their first home at 4221 Morgan Avenue North in Minneapolis. Before they moved to that home, they lived for three months at a camp up north where my dad was the Camp Director, and then returned to Minneapolis to live in my mom's mother's home at 3644 Harriet Avenue South while she was in Europe for a few weeks.
As the time drew closer for my grandma to return, my parents looked for their first home near Henry High School. They had considered renting, but then ended up finding the home at 4221 Morgan that was similar in price to purchase as it would have been to rent. They surprised themselves by moving forward so quickly with a home purchase.
Although yesterday was a bittersweet day for my mom, we tried to make it as pleasant as possible for her. Below is the reading that I read aloud to my mom after we enjoyed cake, ice cream, and punch together.
Today we’re gathered to commemorate your and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary.
We are using the word “commemorate” because to commemorate means to recall and show respect for someone or something.
As we recall your and Dad’s marriage, it is clear that it was built upon genuine and heart-felt respect for one another, for each member of our family, and others who have come into your lives
Both of you showed that by giving respect to each other’s thoughts and feelings, you were able to understand and help one another – on a daily basis as well as through challenges each of you faced in your life.
Maya Angelou, a poet, said that “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” We envision this deep love for one another as the same love you had for one another when you began your married life together on June 13, 1964.
The love – and respect - continued for decades as you and Dad experienced so many milestones in your lives. Many were joyful – such as celebrating your 25th wedding surprise anniversary party at St. Joseph the Worker in 1989. Being surrounded by family and friends who wanted to be with you and Dad on that special day showed the love and respect all of these people felt because of both of you.
And some of the things you encountered together were indeed challenging. Yet, you supported one another through these struggles, each one knowing that the other was ever-present.
It reminds us of I Corinthians Chapter 13 Verse 7 that says: “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Only love that has a foundation of respect is able to never give up, never lose faith, always remain hopeful, and endure through every circumstance.
“Commemorating” also means “to celebrate an event or a person by doing something.” We are celebrating the wonderful years of your marriage to one another by having cake –with lots of flowers and icing, just like Dad would have liked; ice cream; and punch with sherbet.
Mom, you showed us the importance of celebrating special days – like birthdays and holidays – by having a delicious meal or cake and ice cream. Although gifts were often a part of these celebrations, the more important thing was that we were celebrating these special days together as a family.
We also celebrate your marriage that represented generosity in many ways – towards one another, towards your family, and to those in your church and community who were struggling.
A woman named Carol Ryrie Brink said, “The most truly generous persons are those who give silently without hope of praise or reward.” We have seen this time and again throughout your marriage where you both gave of your time and skills to others without any expectation in return.
You and Dad provided support and inspiration to youth through Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Big Brothers/Little Brothers, and 4-H. You both provided nourishment and comfort to others through Loaves and Fishes and meals after funerals at church. You both created a community of support and love through the Gadabouts and the many activities and Mystery Trips you took together. You gave of time and skills to create and deliver quilts to those affected by homelessness, domestic violence, and disaster.
The Dalai Lama said, “Giving material goods is one form of generosity, but one can extend an attitude of generosity into all one’s behavior. Being kind, attentive, and honest in dealing with others; offering praise where it is due; giving comfort and advice where they are needed; and simply sharing one’s time with someone – all these are forms of generosity, and they do not require any particular level of material wealth.
You both clearly exemplify generosity inits purest and self-less form. You have certainly inspired us – Mary, Jim, and I – to each to give of ourselves through volunteering locally and globally. And, speaking for Sophia and Olivia, I know that your values of generosity and volunteering have been passed onto them. Each time that they share their time and skills…that they are generous and giving towards others…they are continuing the legacy that you and Dad shared with and modeled for us.
As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” We hope that continuing to commemorate your marriage as well as your values that we are making differences in small ways in the lives of others in the spirit of love.
“Commemorating” also means “to serve as a memorial to.” Today, we have placed containers of beautiful flowers in front of the living room window and on the deck.
Every time that you see these flowers,may they remind you of the beauty of the years that you and Dad spent together –the experiences you shared, the trips you took together, the laughter you shared, and, yes, even the struggles that you dealt with. All of these aspects –the joy and the sorrow – made you both stronger and your love deeper for one another.
The flowers – with their vivid colors and variety – represent the multitude of lives you both have touched and positively changed….starting with one another, expanding to your family, and reaching far beyond what either of you ever envisioned 50 years ago when you were married at Incarnation Church.
So, as we are gathered here to commemorate your and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary, we are reminded of Vincent van Gogh’s thoughts about love when he said, “Love is something eternal; the aspect may change, but not the essence.”
Rumi, a poet, echoed these same thoughts by saying that “Love rests on no foundation. It is an endless ocean, with no beginning or end.”
Truly, you and Dad were and continue to be role models for everyone who believes in eternal love, for those who trust that there really is a “one and only.”
You are role models who show the benefits of a happy marriage through unconditional love.
You are role models who demonstrate commitment, caring, and unselfish devotion.
May the love, dedication, and commitment to one another that you have shared continue to be a golden beacon for the rest of us.
With our love,
Ann, Mary, and Jim