On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, my father-in-law, JB Lawrimore, suffered a heart attack; a week later, he had bypass surgery. The operation was a success and the doctors expect him to have a complete recovery, thanks be to God.
Having a remarkably shallow threshold for ick, I (intentionally) never gave much thought to how this procedure was accomplished. Thus, I was shocked when my husband informed me the night before surgery.
“They have to stop his heart to do the surgery,” my husband told me. “They will reroute Dad’s blood through a machine that will do the work of his heart.”
Say what now? A machine? You’re telling me a machine is going to take over for my father-in-law’s heart? Nope. No way. There is no manmade contraption that could handle that job. Oh, maybe a machine could pump blood through JB’s body; I get that. But the real work of my father-in-law’s heart? That job is much more than simple mechanics.
For example, how would that machine respond if it detected the voices of Barney and Andy quibbling over the rampant crime in Mayberry? JB’s real heart manufactures a deep belly laugh that crinkles his eyes, scrunches up his nose, and arrests any conversation previously in process. That same laugh might bubble up at any time, like when he’s sharing an anecdote from his childhood or one from just last week. Spontaneous, but also predictable, JB’s infectious laugh spreads through a group like a hysterical virus. Trust me: there is nothing mechanical about it.
Plus, a machine would have long ago shut down the nonessential milk bone operation that JB’s heart kicks off every time he drives up his driveway. His truck’s approach triggers the barking dog next door who immediately runs to the the designated meeting place by the fence. She waits as JB reaches into his hiding place and pulls out a treat. “Hey there girl,” he says, “Do you need a bone?” Instantly, that fussy old mutt morphs into pure sweetness as JB hands her the milk bone and scratches behind her ears. “There you go. That’s a good girl.”
Also, I have to wonder if this is a brand-new machine. If it is, it won’t have what it takes to do the job of JB’s heart. See, his heart shows evidence of extensive use. It’s been stretched significantly five times (grandchildren will do that to a heart), but it’s been broken too. Indeed, his life has been a beautiful one, but not one without his share of grief and pain, disappointment and loss. He’s outlived his parents—which he expected, no doubt—but he outlived his youngest brother too. Losing a brother who was closer to his son’s age than his own . . . if his heart had been manmade, it would surely have shattered.
And what about the lights in this device? It will need some with maximum luminosity that won’t dim over time. See JB’s heart shines for lots of things—the first shoots of new growth in his garden, a prayer of thanksgiving, the music of the church—but there’s nothing quite like the Granddaddy Glow his heart has emitted for the past two and a half decades. As each new life joined the family, JB’s heart light found a new height of brilliance. And yet, inexplicably, as JB’s five favorites have grown beyond cradles and playgrounds, to marriage and careers, his heart appears warmer and brighter with the passage of time. It’s a self-sustaining, never-fading illumination of abiding love. That kind of light—well it’s just not something humanity can manufacture.
I know this: no matter how advanced medical science becomes, there will never be a mere machine that can do the job of JB Lawrimore’s heart. But, I sure am grateful for that fancy contraption—and the skilled medical professionals who operate it—that kept it pumping though his surgery. As a result, JB’s heart can keep right on working for many years to come. To God be the glory!
On June 10, 1925, before God and the witnesses present, Mabel Louise Cobb, 20, and Jesse D. Martin, 23, promised to love and cherish each other as long as they both should live. And that’s what they did. For better, for worse, from Georgia to Cuba to Brazil and back to Georgia again; in sickness and in health and through the darkness of dementia. They loved (three boys and two girls; 11 grandchildren) and they lost (their oldest daughter in 1961: she was only 33 years old. . .).
By 1989, when Granddaddy’s death parted them, my grandparents had been married for 64 years. Oh, how they loved each other! Ten years earlier, reflecting on 54 years of marriage, Grandmama (then 74) wrote to my parents who had been married for 19 years at the time, and had three children of their own. She thanks them for the anniversary card they had sent and proceeds to describe what marriage in the golden years was like for them. Here is what she said.
We do feel most blessed to be as well as we are at our age. And to be as thoughtful and considerate of each other, but as the years go by, one learns that there’s much more to love than meets the eye when we start out our marriages. True love calls for lots of giving and taking. We have to learn to realize we aren’t always right. Even after as many years as you two have been married, there’s still things you probably don’t realize will draw you closer as years continue to pass until finally you become so close you can’t imagine life without one another. It’s a glorious feeling to know that there’s one who loves you and wants never to have to give you up, yet we have to realize any time after we get our age that God could call either of us any day. So, you must live each day for each other and thank Him so much for another day together.
My Grandmama wrote that in 1979, back when people worried about gas prices and the cost of long distance phone calls, and when computers were housed in large buildings rather than back pockets. But the wisdom she shares is truly timeless. When Mother uncovered this letter recently, she said to me, “It’s amazing how her letter perfectly describes how your daddy and I feel about our marriage.” (Mother and Daddy got married in 1960 and just celebrated their 57th anniversary.) Every morning, my parents have breakfast together and share a time of prayer. Every prayer begins like this, “Thank you God for the gift of a new day.”
Today is the 113th anniversary of Grandmama’s birth. There are lots of things about Grandmama that I could celebrate—her love of the color purple (my favorite too); her delicious homemade biscuits; her hearty, full-body laugh. But today I think I will celebrate by trying to apply Grandmama’s words, not just to my 30-year marriage, but to all my relationships. I will try to be thoughtful and considerate, to remember I’m not always right, and to thank God for the gift of a new day. I hope you’ll celebrate with me!
I was 22; he was just barely 24. We started dating when we were students at Campbell University and two and a half years later we said our vows. How thirty years have slipped away since that day, I could not tell you. But boy, have we made a lot of memories since then. Here, in celebration of our 30th anniversary last November, are just a sample of them.
The workers building a retaining wall at my house had only talked to my husband and hadn’t yet met me. That particular day, I’d been gone when they arrived and got back after they were hard at it. The foreman saw me pull up and waited for me to get out of the car.
“Hey there!” he greeted me, “You Jay’s wife?”
“Well,” I told him, getting the groceries out of the car, “I’m his first wife.” I walked on towards the house.
“Um,” the man clearly wanted an end to the awkward silence, but couldn’t seem to form any actual words.
“I’m also his only wife,” I said, as the poor fella started breathing again. It’s one of my favorite gags. I introduce my husband as my former boyfriend, my ex-fiancé, or as in this case, my first husband. (I make my own fun.)
Indeed, back in the late eighties, I finished my bachelor’s degree and married my college sweetheart. Coincidently, so did my roommate and my two closest girlfriends. Today, more than two decades later, all four of us are still happily married. Talk about non-traditional marriage: according to today’s statistics—at least two of our four couples should be divorced by now.
No matter what Americans believe about marriage, surely we can all agree that the rapid dissolution of so many families is alarming. I know a number of couples who have suffered divorce and listen, they all have valid reasons: chronic unemployment on the part of one spouse or the other, affairs, addictions, and just plain irreconcilable differences. Without question, marriages often fail despite the determined efforts of one or even both of the partners. And sometimes, marriages should be terminated long before they are: I’m talking about abuse here—physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional. Seriously, if you are in an abusive relationship, get out immediately. You and your children will be better living in a shelter than with an abuser. No exceptions.
But back to my college friends & me. What has held our marriages together?
One could argue that church-going is one thing. All four of us go as couples with our children to church on Sunday mornings and every other time the doors are open. But you know what? So do a lot of other couples who have faced divorce. Going to church is important, but it doesn’t guarantee a long-lasting marriage. The divorce statistics for couples in Sunday school are the same as for those who skip it.
All eight of us are hard workers. Among us are three teachers, a couple of business people, an engineer, a scientist, and a minister (who also happens to write compelling blog posts). But none of us would be considered wealthy by American standards. In fact, each of our families have been through lean years in which one of the two spouses was laid off, under-employed, or in school for further education. Financial distress is often cited as the primary cause of divorce, yet our relationships have persisted through such troubles.
Not that it’s been easy; none of us would be the millennium version of Ozzy and Harriet or Mike and Carol Brady. No, our marriages have included real-life frustrations; plenty of times it would have seemed easier to give up. So why didn’t we? I don’t know all the reasons, but I know one.
See, while the divorce statistic is the same for church-goers and party-goers, church-going does not equal faith. In all four of our marriages, we’ve either found or sustained a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ. Over the years, despite our struggles (or maybe due to those difficulties), we’ve all grown closer to God. All eight of us have aspired as individuals, as spouses, and as family members, to know God better and to be more like Christ. All eight of us have also failed resoundingly many times; but we’ve managed, by grace, to return to the path of spiritual formation, even when detours have distracted us from our objectives.
Marriage. You can hardly check a news feed without stumbling upon some so-called wisdom about it. Too bad Jesus isn’t on social media. If he were, he might say something like, “Strive first for the kingdom of God & his righteousness, & all these things will be given to you as well.” #Matt6:33NRSV #lovealwayswins.
*This piece was first published on June 29, 2015, by Baptist News Global (formerly Associated Baptist Press). I’m delighted to be associated with this great organization and am honored to be among the gifted writers and thinkers featured there. Watch for my BNG column, appearing monthly at baptistnews.com.
My friend Trevar Simmons met Sherry Ingram when he interviewed with her for a job back in 2007. They became friends and remained close for the next six years. In 2013 they realized they were falling for each other; they were married 12 days ago. To my great frustration, I was not able to attend the wedding. I wrote this prayer for them, in celebration of their love and marriage. (Trevar blogs at http://trevar.blogspot.com.)
March 1, 2014
Thank you for the love that you have created between Sherry and Trevar. As we look on this love, we see your hand in its intricate design, its deep formation. We look at them loving each other and we experience the kind of divine wonder we feel when we behold natural beauty: a sunset over the mountains, the expanse of the ocean, a new song by the neighborhood mockingbird. We are brought to our knees by the magnificence of it, and we are grateful.
In seeing how Sherry and Trevar love each other, we are reminded of your complete love for us. The way you give to us abundantly, joyfully. The way you laugh when we laugh and cry when we cry. The way you indulge our need for second chances, and third ones. You love us in our brokenness. You love us in our foolishness. You love us like crazy.
We praise you God, that Sherry and Trevar, by loving each other like you love us, have called us back into your embrace. We feel at home here. We feel at peace. We feel loved.
May the home that Sherry and Trevar build together always be one that radiates the peace and love that they feel in this moment. May their marriage surprise them with fresh joy and encourage them with lasting hope. And may their love, so vibrant now, grow ever more so day by love-filled day.
God in your mercy, Hear my prayer.
“This reminds me of an Andy Griffith episode,” Jay said to me. “You remember? The one when Otis is drunk and he stumbles into Andy's office and locks himself into the jail cell?”
I, Jay’s treasured wife of 26 years, was stumbling into a doctor’s office, clinging to his arm in hopes that this would both slow the maddening dizziness and keep me from a parking lot face plant. It was the worst migraine I’ve had in a decade.
I’ve had migraines since I was 13 and I’m really good at them. I have your run-of-the-mill classic migraine that comes with its own light show. I have cluster migraines: basically the classic stuck on repeat. These migraines are no fun, but I have developed pretty good coping skills over the last thirty something years to help me manage them.
Not so with the vestibular migraine. At the height of these episodes, the symptoms flair with my every move. Like if I open my eyes, talk, breathe, or hurl an entire week of nutrients. Let me show you what symptoms I mean. Come along with me on an imaginary journey to Vestibular Migraine World (VMW). Imagine a child’s toy top. You know how you spin it and for a while it whirls around looking as if it isn't moving at all; but then as it slows it begins to wobble? That’s what it feels like in VMW! Like I’m a wobbly top about to fall. Only whether I fall or not, I’m still wobbly. Lovely.
But wait! There’s more. The VMW top is made of a stack of metal disks. I guess if this toy were spun as intended, it would whrrrr and murmur pleasantly. But alas, in VMW, tops do not spin at top speed—they wobble; and as they wobble they clang and bang, refusing to fall and hush up.
I only know one certain way out of VMW: you start by drinking plenty of water, then take the correct medication, and finally sleep until you wake up back in reality. It’s a lengthy journey. I know this because I spent a lot of time in VMW from 2001-2004. Since then, I have only passed through briefly on my way to some other, more familiar, migraine territory. Consequently, I don’t keep the VMW exit meds on hand. Today then, when my brain was kidnapped and taken into the depths of VMW, I couldn’t get it back without a visit to the doctor’s office.
“Did you just compare me to a town drunk?” I asked my beloved.
“I guess so,” he said laughing, having made his own fun.
And you know what? I laughed too. Because for a fleeting moment, I left VMW for a visit to Mayberry; and if you can’t laugh in Mayberry, well you might as well move to VMW permanently!
(I got to feeling better by about 4:15 pm. What happened next merited its own blog post.)
Back in my 8ish to 5ish days, my co-worker and I had an unspoken agreement about morning chatter. It went like this. I’d walk in (usually about five minutes late). She’d already be there at her desk, head down working.
“Hey,” I’d say, proceeding to my office.
“Hey,” She’d say, acknowledging me without glancing in my general direction.
A couple of hours later, we’d greet each other for real; until then, neither of us much cared how the other one was doing.
My husband, though, is a morning person. He loves getting up early for a fresh start on the day. (I prefer my mornings old and stale, ya know, like afternoons.) Recently he was telling me about a 10K race that required runners to be in place before 6:30 am. He was taken aback by the early start.
“Do you know how dark it is at 6:30 in the morning?” he asked rhetorically, making conversation.
“No,” I said. “And may I never learn.”
Mornings just aren’t my thing. Unfortunately, our culture seems to equate morning alacrity with overall productivity. Not true. I get lots done after 12 noon and by 9 pm I’m wildly efficient. Mornings though . . . well, they always tend to cut my night’s sleep short. I can’t stand that about mornings.
There are advantages to early morning waking though. Recently, my husband and I were out and about before 8 am and--would you believe it?--the sky is actually quite lovely at that time of day.
Surprised and delighted by my discovery, I remarked to my morning person spouse, “Look at the sky! Isn’t the sunrise exceptionally beautiful today?”
He reached over, patted my knee, and responded smugly, “Actually it looks this way every morning, Aileen. You just have to be awake to see it.”
And that, my friends, is why I don’t like to be around morning people.