My brother Tommy, my sister Elsie and I did what many adult children do when their parents reach the milestone of 50 years of marriage ... we threw one heck of a party. The festivities were held in the fellowship hall of the Red Bank Baptist Church in, as fate would have it, the same room where my wedding reception took place several years prior. Daddy was already pretty sick with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases by the time his and Mom's anniversary rolled around, so he spent his time at the event sitting in his wheelchair smiling at people he couldn't remember and clapping his hands at a party for which he had no idea that he was one of the two guests of honor. Mom, however, was fully aware of everything that was taking place, and she was happier than a woodpecker in a ginormous forest.
Though I don't remember the circumstances that led us to choose the particular gift we gave Mom and Dad on the day of their 50th anniversary party, it turned out to be the perfect representation of their years together. A gift that 31 years later sits peacefully on a small shelf in my bedroom, quietly reminding me each time I see it that the only thing that really matters in life is how we love. Loving other people isn't always the easiest thing to do; in fact, sometimes loving others is the hardest thing in the world to do. Whether it's your spouse or partner or kids or parents or siblings or friends or co-workers or the mechanic who fixes your car, there are times when loving others feels more like swallowing a bucket of hot coals than slurping down a gallon of cool and refreshing iced tea. I think when it comes to loving other people, it's more than life that's like a box of chocolates. When you make the conscious decision to treat others from a heart of love, you never know what you're gonna get.
The truth is that sometimes love really is all roses and sunshine, and you feel as though your heart might explode from the joy and happiness of it all. But sometimes love is messy ... sometimes love isn't pretty ... sometimes love is caring for someone who's fighting a terrible disease ... sometimes love is cleaning up puke or wiping butts ... sometimes love is listening patiently to a story you've heard a million times before ... sometimes love is speaking louder so someone can hear ... sometimes love is lifting a spoon to the mouth of someone who can no longer feed themselves. Yes, there are times when loving other people is just plain old life-sucking hard, but in the end ... in the end, loving other people is always, always, always the right thing to do. I know that my mom had some regrets in her life, but loving my dad ... even in the darkest and most difficult of times ... was never one of them.
There are some other things I'm reminded of every time I see the small porcelain figurine that my brother, sister and I gave Mom and Dad all those years ago. I'm reminded that we all need to be patched up now and then ... that none of us are without flaws ... that we all get torn or worn or weary. I'm reminded just how very much we need each other ... in the marvelously wonderful good times and the wretchedly painful bad times ... we desperately need each other. We need to stop tearing each other apart and focus on stitching each other back together. We need to sew in love, friends ... with every ounce of strength and heart we have within us, my friends ... we need to sew in love.