This past March, 2013, we celebrated my Mom's 100th birthday! She lives in the southern tier of New York State. She's quite amazing - her mind is as sharp as ever, and she has a lot of energy still. She's always trying to cook us dinner and do the dishes for us. She lives with her younger sister, who is a mere 98 years old. They are quite a pair, living fairly independently still, with the help of relatives.
As a matter of fact, they exhibit a great example of true brotherly, or should I say, sisterly love. If you visited them, it would become obvious right away, how much they care for and love each other. My aunt's a widow also, and my Mom and her have lived together for about 27 years now. Many times their visitors are trying to find out what they are eating or drinking, or what type of vitamins they take. My Mom's answer to longevity...."it's all in the genes."
She eats bacon and sausage and eggs and butter and beef and pork and cheese and coffee and sugar and chocolate and ice cream, and is on no special diet, except to try to reduce her salt intake. She said she got her quota of salt when she worked as a young girl in a salt mining and packaging plant in Watkins Glen, N.Y. "I loved the iodine in the salt, and I used to lick salt all the time."
She has an incredible sense of humor. She said when she was much younger, on her 80th birthday, someone asked her, "As you look back on 80 years of life, which period in your life was the most difficult?" She responded, "The first 80 years." Another time she was asked, "What is the earliest thing you can remember?" She jokingly said, "When they dug out Seneca Lake." (Seneca Lake is the longest and deepest of the Finger Lakes of central New York State.)
When we were visiting my Mom for her birthday celebration, I got several chances to capture on video many conversations that we had. She talked about memories of childhood and of her teenage years, about her philosophies on today's world, about her view on faith and prayer, and we talked about many other topics as well.
In one of the videos, I asked her, "What is your advice on marriage?" Now, I've heard many pieces of advice on marriage over the years. Some serious and some humorous. Even just this morning, sitting in my office (the local Paneras), after doing a Bible study with a couple of friends, I asked one of them, a 78 year old man, his advice on marriage. He responded, "Well, I have two pieces of advice for men.....number one: 'Do what you're told', and number two: 'Shut up!!'" Needless to say, we had a good laugh.
Seriously though, when I asked for my Mom's advice on marriage, I was really interested in what she had to say. And I thought that her answer would be a good one to hear since she was such a devoted wife to my Dad for about 40 years. After he died, she would never entertain even just the thought of being with another husband. She was definitely a one-man woman, and that was final.
When I asked for her advice on marriage, I didn't give her any advance warning, or any time to prepare. Perhaps that was a bit unfair, not giving her a chance to get her thoughts together, but it was interesting to hear her candid, off-the-cuff response. She talked slowly, like she was carefully trying to craft the words to use in her answer.
So here is her advice on marriage, word for word, taken directly from the video.....
She said, "Let me think...that's a hard one! First, to be true to each other...not to keep secrets or things from each other. Communication is very important. And to pull for one another, and think about the other more than yourself. If you think about the other more than yourself, you'll be happy, because that way, the other partner, in turn, will do it for you. He will return that love, faithfulness and sharing. And most of all, if you have God in your life - if you live without some sort of religion in your life, it's hard to make it. You've got to have God! If you turn God away, you don't find peace. If you see a lot of divorced people, or unhappy people, quarreling, you'll notice....they've shut God out of their life. They don't go to church. They don't have anything to keep them together."
I really liked her advice - how not to keep secrets from each other, and the fact that communication is so important. That's so true! And how about the Biblical principal she used....to put the other first. It reminds me of Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
I liked her statement that we should "pull for one another". In other words, we are never to criticize or put down the other person, either to their face or behind their back. Instead, we need to be our spouse's greatest encourager. That, in itself, is priceless advice when you really think about it!
"...encourage one another and build each other up..." (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
She used a three word phrase that really describes a good marriage, "love, faithfulness, and sharing". Well said, Mom! When you see a marriage with those three attributes, you can be sure it's a healthy marriage. When love, faithfulness, and sharing are consistently happening on both sides, the relationship is strong.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails..."
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Finally, she states her most important foundational principle that has guided her whole life.....that God is foremost. She sees this as the key in holding marriages together - that both spouses must have a faithful, trusting relationship with God. She is a devoted, faithful, life-long Christian herself - a believer in Jesus - a Christ follower. When she said, "You've got to have God!", she said it ever so emphatically, with a very concerned look on her face, like she was questioning how it would even be possible not to have the Lord in your life and still have a marriage filled with joy and peace.
I, myself, have found it true, not only in my marriage of almost 40 years, but in so many people's lives around me - that without the Lord in your life, everything will tend to fall apart. As the scripture says, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:17)
I'm so proud of my Mom. I respect everything she says, all of her wisdom, as well as her ongoing example to all of us. Sometimes my Mom will say, "I don't know why the Lord let's me live so long." I know the answer!.....It's because she still continues to be a blessing to so many people. Especially to me.