By Barb Arland-Fye
In the midst of debate in the Iowa Legislature about what constitutes marriage, I have received e-mail correspondence about three couples with an enduring commitment to the sacrament.
First, I heard from Francie Hickerson whose parents Tom and Tina Lazio of Muscatine will be married 70 years this coming September. Francie, of Maryland, and her nine siblings are paying tribute to their parents in a Valentine of sorts.
“Tom and Tina set an example of unselfish love, devoting time to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their beliefs and values are the foundations of their lives together. Pope John Paul II said, ‘the family is the teacher of love, service, understanding and forgiveness.’” Tom and Tina live this example, the tribute says.
While Tom now lives in a nursing home, Tina visits him several times a week; the couple prays together, including during religious services at the nursing home. In earlier days, they prayed together at home and at St. Mathias Church in Muscatine, Francie said.
She spoke of Tom’s enthusiasm for sports and how he passed on that interest to his children, and later to his wife. Tina loves music and shared that passion with her husband and their children. She sacrificed going to college to work at her family’s businesses. Tina also enjoyed cooking and baking, especially Italian cookies, bread and meals. She and a cousin helped several Iowa communities raise building funds for local parishes by organizing and cooking spaghetti dinners. Tina was an active member of the Catholic Daughters and Legion of Mary.
Tom was an active member of the Knights of Columbus and other organizations and is a World War II veteran who likes to tell frequent stories of his trip to France on the overcrowded deck of the Queen Mary.
The tribute ends with this heartfelt sentiment: “We, your children: Antoinette (Toni) Greiner, Tom Lazio, Jr., Maryrose Peterschmidt, Francie Hickerson, Mike Lazio, Nancy Berry, Theresa Mitchell, Sam Lazio, John Lazio and Helen Stegall are grateful for your examples of love, service, understanding, and forgiveness. As we reflect on the moments of prayer and family life, we want to express our love to you. We are grateful that we are blessed with you as our parents. Mom and Dad, may you continue to be blessed with Christ’s love today and in the days to come.”
They truly are a blessed family who appreciates what the sacrament of marriage means.
I am unaware of any enduring marriage that has avoided challenges or trying times; I have no idea what challenges the Lazios may have faced over the past 69 years. But they have kept the faith and held fast to their vocation. Paul observes in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury … (13:4-5).
Paul may not have been speaking specifically about marital love, but the reflection he offers seems to me to apply to love in all of its forms, including the love between spouses, families and friends, and our love for God.
The other e-mail I received about long married couples came from a prayer chain I belong to. The sender asked for prayers for two families: one couple had been married for 55 years when the husband died last week and the other had been married for 68 years when the wife died unexpectedly this week. My prayers go out to them as they continue their journey, holding fast to the memories and the promise of eternal life together.
Paul says, “Faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (13:7-13).