Today would have been Daddy’s and Mama’s 58th wedding anniversary. Their meeting in Durham, NC when they both were at Duke University – Daddy teaching physical therapy and Mama studying medical technology – was nothing less than a miracle.
Daddy had other job offers but he wanted to, after his stint in the Army during the Korean War, as all of us Tarheels long to at some point, go home. Mama was originally supposed to go to Vanderbilt University for her training, but she didn’t have a prerequisite course she needed to get into their program. Mama had all the prerequisites for Duke’s program, so she changed her plans and went there instead.
One of our family jokes was that Daddy picked Mama up on a street corner. In fact, that’s essentially true: Mama waited at the corner of her street each morning for the bus that would pick her up and take her to Duke. Daddy saw her the first day, since he drove the same route to get to the university.
I doubt there were more than a couple of mornings that Daddy passed by before he got the nerve to stop and ask the pretty young woman waiting for the bus if she wanted a ride to school (he knew where Mama was going because he’d waited and followed the bus to see where she was going and where she got off the bus). He told Mama he knew the first day they met that he wanted to marry her.
Daddy and Mama were married Saturday, June 9, 1956 in Unaka Baptist Church on East Unaka Avenue in Johnson City, TN. It was a small wedding, but the sacred vows Daddy and Mama took that day were big and they both lovingly and faithfully kept them for their entire marriage.
Daddy died in 1998, a few months after he and Mama had celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. I will never forget bringing Mama home after his burial.
Grieving and numb (we all knew Daddy was dying, but knowledge alone can never prepare anyone for the reality of the actual experience), she sat in a chair in their bedroom and took her wedding rings off and said “I’m not married anymore.”
(At some point that afternoon, Mama put her wedding rings back on, but the time came later on when she removed them for good and put them away for safekeeping.)
Mama was always one to get the heart of the matter in big situations, but even that took me aback and I couldn’t handle the finality of her declaration. Tears falling, I left their bedroom and wondered how Mama would survive without her best friend and how we would survive as a family without Daddy.
Mama did better than we as a family did after Daddy’s death, but there wasn’t a day that she didn’t miss him until her own death almost 14 years later. Now they both sleep, side by side in Oakland Cumberland Presbyterian Cemetery in Telford, TN, awaiting the resurrection, when they’ll be reunited for eternity.
There are quite a few songs that come to mind when I think of Daddy and Mama, of their love, their commitment, and their lives together, but I thought I’d share a couple today that I hadn’t thought about in a while (probably because they’re more on the sappy side and I usually shy away from sappy stuff), but was reminded of recently because they were playing somewhere where I was.
The first is Bread’s “If:”
The second is “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers:
I’ve heard people say that married people won’t be working together in the resurrection and throughout eternity, but that defies logic. A marriage is about building a team and a family adds members to that team. It’s ludicrous to think that God would not use existing and well-developed teams He has forged through marriage, family, and time in this life in the next part of His plan involving humanity.
So, until our team is reunited, Daddy and Mama, sleep well. I’m thankful you were my parents and that you both left me an incredible legacy by your examples of love and commitment in every aspect of your lives individually and together that I remember and draw upon daily. I love you both and can’t wait to see you again!