Boy meets girl. They fall in love. He goes off to war and she is left with her thoughts, her fears, her hopes, and her rosary. They write each other letters every single day. Every. Single. Day. Her friends tell her that he is going to find someone else. But she knows him. She knows the way in which he loves her. She prays the rosary for him every day. Every. Single. Day. One years later, he comes home and asks her to marry him. He is only home for two weeks before he is unexpectedly shipped out for another year. The letters and the rosaries begin again. At the end of that year, on December 2, 1950 they are married at Our Lady of Guadalupe church.
65 years later, they are my inspiration. Not because of the story above, as inspiring as it is, but because of what happened next.
With a story as “Nicholas Sparks” as theirs, you’d think “Okay, marriage! This must be the part where all their hardship, patience, and trust pays off!” But these two amazing human beings stepped into marriage knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy. And it was their dating relationship that prepared my grandparents for what life was going to throw at them in marriage. During their time dating, they accepted the challenges placed in front of them, they made sacrifices, they chose to love without limits, and to trust in a way that left them truly vulnerable.
Like many grandparents with years of marriage under their belt, they’ve experienced the loss of their parents, some of their siblings, and even one of their children through a miscarriage. They raised five children together, one of which gave them the gift of remaining young parents even in old age. The youngest of their children, my uncle, has Rubinstein-Taydi syndrome. A condition that is extremely uncommon, it occurs in an estimated 1 in 100,000 newborns. It’s a genetic disease that brings about physical and mental disabilities that keep him young at heart and in mind, and keep my grandparents on their toes.
They have been through their share of parenting mishaps, parish fiesta volunteering, and prayers for their family to come to know the love of Christ. I once asked my grandma how they did it. And she said she didn’t really know. But they did it together. Her advice for marriage was to do things together. Go to the grocery store together. Cook dinner together. Pray together. Suffer together. Do things together.
This summer, my grandma was in the hospital for surgery on her knee. She had to spend a few days there, away from my grandpa and my uncle. In the few days she was away, my grandpa had a small health scare and was taken to a different hospital. When my grandma heard the news she was furious that she couldn’t be there.
I love my little Mexican grandma. Here’s why. She’s always armed with her rosary, she’s always bold, and she’s always moving a little bit faster than the men in her life… not out of pride, but out of love. She’s always a little ahead so she can catch them if and when they fall. (I think it’s a special grace. Grandmothers are hidden heroes.) But this time, she was stuck in a hospital bed.
I happened to be in the hospital room with her when she was reunited with my grandpa. I have never seen such genuine love. They both started crying and their hug was one of those hugs that says so much more than words ever could. I even started crying! I asked my mom how long they had been apart, it looked like weeks, but she said it had only been two days.
Their love is 65 beautiful, yet challenging, years old and it STILL blows me out of the water. Their love is selfless, they care only about the other’s wellbeing. In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, they are never focused on themselves. God is first, and the other person is second. That’s the key. We are so focused on what WE want, how WE feel, what makes US happy. And I’ve learned that your vocation, whatever it is, is never about you. It’s about loving, and true love empties us of self.
A beautiful, wise friend of mine once told me that, “Dating is finding the person you’re going to suffer with for the rest of your life.”
Who do you want to suffer with?
Who do you want to suffer for?
Who do you want next to you as you suffer together, in ways you will never be able to predict?
Once you find THAT person, then chances are you’ve also found the person who will rejoice with you, laugh with you, build you up and challenge you to be the best you can be.
Pope Francis said this on marriage,
“But today, Father, it is difficult… Of course it is difficult! That is why we need the grace, the grace that comes from the sacrament! The sacraments are not decorations in life – what a beautiful marriage, what a beautiful ceremony, what a beautiful banquet…But that is not the sacrament of marriage. That is a decoration! Grace is not given to decorate life but rather to make us strong in life, giving us courage to go forwards! And without isolating oneself but always staying together. Christians celebrate the sacrament of marriage because they know they need it! They need it to stay together and to carry out their mission as parents. “In joy and in sadness, in sickness and in health”. This is what the spouses say to one another during the celebration of the sacrament and in their marriage they pray with one another and with the community. Why? Because it is helpful to do so? No! They do so because they need to, for the long journey they are making together: it is a long journey, not for a brief spell but for an entire life!”