Last Saturday I attended the nuptial Mass of a couple in their early 30s who recognize that God is a partner in their marriage. That same day I interviewed a couple who will celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary in June. Their lived experience of the sacrament testifies to God’s partnership in their marriage.
Reflecting on the day, I visualized two bookends in the sacrament of marriage and thought about the books in between. Jamie and Brandon Bowman have many books yet to fill; Jeanette and Rich Lalor have filled a bookcase.
As I watched Jamie and Brandon kneeling in the sanctuary on their wedding day at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, I prayed for God to bless them with strength, joy and hope to sustain them through the years ahead. Their pastor, Father Rich Adam, reflected on the qualities that Jamie and Brandon share in common and the qualities that contrast them.
The recitation of their vows, which followed, took my breath away. I know the lived experience of those vows, and treasure them.
A conversation I’d had earlier that morning with Jeanette came to mind. Jeanette had sent an email after reading columns I’d written about the road to recovery from a jogging accident and the support my husband Steve has provided.
Jeanette wrote about the loving support her husband has provided as together they endured her three major back surgeries, open heart surgery, cervical neck surgery and amputation of her left leg.
“… My husband visited me at the hospital(s) and rehabilitation center every day through sleet, snow, cold winds, and beautiful warm sunny days. My heart would leap when I heard or saw him coming just to visit me! He always had the most wonderful smile. When I was able to return home, the shopping for groceries was done by him … the laundry was done by him, cleaning was done by him, helping me with personal needs was done by him … all done with love and no complaints. I am telling you this because you musn’t ever feel that twinge of guilt for having to call to your husband or family to help you. They are only returning to you what you have given them for so many years!”
Jeanette and Rich celebrated their nuptial Mass on June 11, 1966, at St. Mary Catholic Church in Iowa City, which remains their parish today. They reared five children while Rich worked in several different careers — retailing, education and newspaper circulation — before co-founding a nonprofit organization where he still works: Table to Table. The organization’s mission is to “keep wholesome, edible food from going to waste by collecting it from donors and distributing to those in need through agencies that serve the hungry, homeless and at-risk populations” (www.table2table.org).
More than 30 years ago, Jeanette suffered her first major health challenge: colon cancer. Whatever challenges they have faced — health, career or child rearing — “Rich and I would both hand it over to God,” Jeanette told me. “Faith is everything for us.”
Rich said he reflects on his wedding vows. “Those carry you for the rest of your life.”
The fact that marriage is a sacrament, “takes you across your lifetime,” he continued.
He also noted that he and Jeanette had a wonderful retreat experience to start off their marriage.
For Jeanette, the strength of their marriage is trust; for Rich, patience. But above all, is prayer. “When times go bad; during the difficult moments, as long as we pray and remain confident, things usually turn out well. We trust in God’s will. That’s how we have our marriage.”
Rich also expresses gratitude for the people God has placed in his and Jeanette’s life …
“During Jeanette’s illnesses, numerous Masses were said by diocesan priests and prayers were said by the Sisters and pastoral ministers; we appreciate them so much!”
Everyone’s journey through marriage is uniquely theirs, but I hope that Jamie and Brandon will experience the strength, hope and joy that have carried Jeanette and Rich through their marriage.