This past Saturday I had the honor of speaking at my sister-in-law’s wedding. It was a wonderful day and thankfully just about everything went smoothly. As I listened to Sara and Eric say their wedding vows to each other, looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, bright, wide smiles on their faces, I couldn’t help but think that at that very moment everything in their married life together, all their hopes and dreams, were possible. I certainly hope that they can achieve many of those dreams, but I also know that life doesn’t always go the way that we hope. As I reflected on the day’s events that evening, my thoughts drifted to my Grandma Phillips and her devotion to my grandfather.
I’ve never been told a lot about what Pop Phillips was like as a young man, but I’ve gotten the impression that he was very hard working and fiercely proud and independent. He was a dairy farmer, and he and my grandmother eeked out a living working the land while raising four boys. Pop was not given to being overtly loving, and he was known to lose his temper from time to time. My one uncle once said that whenever a piece of equipment on the farm broke down Pop would talk to God, and he always hoped that God wasn’t listening!
I have no idea what my Pop was like as a husband, but based on what I’ve been told and what I observed as a child he couldn’t have been the easiest guy in the world to get along with. That’s not to say that he didn’t love his family, but he just rarely showed it outwardly. Pop felt his role in the family was to be the provider, and he worked hard fulfilling that role.
By the time I arrived on the scene Pop’s health had already begun a slow decline. I’m the oldest grandchild, and yet even I don’t have many memories of when my Pop was fully healthy. I grew up watching Grandma cook his meals, make his bed, do his laundry, make sure he took his prescriptions, pay the bills, read him the newspaper, tell him what was happening on Cheers, and many other things.
In Pop’s last few years his health began to really fail. His eyesight went, and he was on oxygen constantly. He didn’t talk much, and often when I visited them in my teen years he barely said more than “hello”. Grandma’s life revolved around keeping him comfortable. They rarely left the home. There would be no travel, no social life, no “golden” years of retirement for her.
When couples recite the traditional wedding vows that say “for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part” they hope for better, richer, and health. No one hopes for worse, poorer and sickness. When worse, poorer, or sickness do come, often the first response is to flee. Not my grandmother. She sacrificed everything for her husband, including her own health, and never once did she ever say that it was too hard or say “I can’t do this” to me.
One visit, toward the end of Pop’s life, I casually asked her if she regretted the fact that she wasn’t getting to do all the things that retired folks enjoy doing. Her reply was “Scott, I get to love your grandfather each day, that’s enough for me.” I will always remember that. I don’t know what the future holds for Mary and me, but I thank God for my grandma, and the example that she set for me in being devoted to your spouse not matter what life throws at you. Mark 10:9 says that “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” No one has exemplified obedience to that verse more than my Grandma Phillips.