True love is renewing your vows on your death bed.
On August 28th, 1982 my parents were married. My dad was an Iowa country boy. My mom was a Hawaii beach babe. How did these two worlds collide you ask? My dad joined the marines right out of high school. With the help of an uncle with connections and of course God’s plan he was stationed on the island of Oahu.
My dad told me that God gave him a sign that my mom was the one. Really….a sign.
There is a lot to this story but here is the short version. One day my dad was working on a roof top in Hawaii. While he was working, he was also praying about his relationship with my mom. They were broken up at the time. He asked God to send a helicopter into the horizon if my mom was the woman he was suppose to marry. So specific right? Well I think you can guess if a helicopter came into view. My dad went to her right away, reconciled and knew without a doubt that she was the one he was suppose to marry.
They moved to Oregon of all places. My dad attended bible college and became a pastor. He was an excellent public speaker! He made sermons enjoyable, the kind you wanted to listen to until the end. Pastor, teacher, speaker, entrepreneur, and coach were a few on the many hats my dad wore.
When I was four, my twin brother and sister were born. They were a surprise. Can you imagine finding out you are having twins 6 weeks before they are born? I know crazy right!!! Another surprise came when I was 14, my mom was pregnant! Our family of 5 became a family of 6.
The memories of my childhood are filled with happiness. My parents did such a wonderful job of putting us kids first and helping us to achieve our goals. I have never questioned my parents love for me.
Their marriage was not perfect but come on, who’s is? I think at times it was their love for us kids that kept them together. My dad had a hard childhood. As a result he had built up walls to protect himself. He was the most kind, vibrant and loving dad a kid could ask for. But because of the walls you could only get so deep. This was especially hard on my parents marriage.
In February of 2014 everything changed.
We found out my dad had prostate cancer that had already moved into his bones. How could this happen??? Cancer is one of those things that every one knows about but you think will never happen to your family.
In May of 2014 my dad’s health got even worse. Seizures had begun to happen regularly which led to an emergency surgery. We found out my dad had a brain tumor. This was a stage 4 tumor and his prognosis was not good.
My dad began to decline rather quickly. Brain cancer is a wicked beast! On October 16th 2014 my daddy went to be with Jesus. But this story is not about how my dad died but about how he lived in those last months of his life.
Cancer effects everyone differently. For my dad it caused his walls to come down. He was determined to enjoy everything he could while he was still on this earth. One of the ways you could see the walls come down was how he was able to open up with my mom allowing her to finally get to a deeper place in his heart.
Thankfully mom was my dad’s main caregiver. This gave them the chance to spend a lot of quality time together. My dad would often say, in his last months of life, that he had been a fool all these years. Taking my mom for granted and not fully appreciating all she did was a huge regret for my dad that he intended to make to her. My parents would go on “dates”. Even if the date was watching a movie in my dads hospital bed. But most importantly they would talk, not the surface kind of talk but deep heart talks that the walls had not allowed in the past.
On a few occasions my dad told me, “Make sure you fully appreciate all that you have. Tell Matt you love him everyday. Tell your baby you love her everyday. Don’t wait till the end of your life to fully experience it.”
My parents renewed their wedding vows on August 28th of 2014. It was a small gathering of friends and family. There was not a dry eye in the room. It was one of those truly beautiful moments that you rarely get to be a part of in person. We had a time of worship and prayer. It was beautiful. 32 years of perfectly imperfect marriage celebrated. Seeing my parents truly expressing their love for each other is a memory I will always cherish.
Those last months with my dad were some of the hardest of my life. They were also some of the most beautiful, loving and joy filled times of my life. So strange how the two extremes can go hand in hand.
So today, as I think about what would have been my parents 34th wedding anniversary, I want to take my dad’s advice. To appreciate the people I love everyday, especially my spouse, and to allow myself to experience life now, in the present.
I choose to live life to the fullest and I hope that you will do the same.