Legacy of Love

I am crazy about love stories. One of my favorite ways of spending a cold winter afternoon is with an inspirational romance novel and a cup of hot chocolate. But even better than fiction are true-life love stories. My parents’ life together was a perfect example of the stuff good books and movies are made of—drama, comedy, action, love, tragedy, romance….

They grew up on different sides of the mountain and met at a singing convention when Mama was a 14 year-old beauty and Daddy a strapping 17-year-old. I don’t think my father was nearly as interested in the music as he was in who was attending the event. When the service was over he insisted on walking her home. The dirt roads were muddy from a recent rainfall and being the perfect gentleman, he used his flashlight to guide her around the pools of water. I suspect he carried her across a few puddles too. Their next encounter was at a church meeting. Mama was seated inside with friends while Daddy lounged outside the open window. Suddenly, he tossed a package of gum into her lap through the unscreened window to get her attention.

The rest, you might say, is history.  After a few more meetings, he let other eligible young men know that my mother was spoken for. Being young and never having known luxury, there was no horse and buggy for “sparking.” Walking or riding horseback was their only form of transportation and in the following months my mother, being a bit unorthodox, did the unthinkable for a young woman at that time. She actually rode in the saddle with Daddy, his arms surrounding her, rather than behind. “Side-stirrup,” they called it, since each of them used one stirrup.  Both had strong, independent traits along with sheer stubbornness—a definite match.

So it probably was not totally unexpected when my parents eloped at the ages of 16 and 19. My paternal grandfather actually accompanied them to obtain a marriage license whereas my mother’s father was out to end the marriage. After hearing about the ceremony, he invited the newlywed couple to come home with him. They accepted. When my parents walked into the house, my father found himself staring down the barrel of a shotgun held by a very angry mother. Needless to say, he was not invited to spend the night!

And though my mother obliged by staying in her parents’ home as her brand new husband was escorted outside, she didn’t stay long. A week later, she wrote a note to her parents, slipped it under her pillow, and left in the middle of the night, running through the fields and trails by the light of the moon to meet my father. They were determined to be together. Some months later, Mama’s parents did a complete turnaround and accepted Daddy as their son-in-law without a trace of animosity, forging a strong, caring relationship that lasted for the rest of their lives.

It was good that everyone had reconciled because sadness was around the corner. The next year Mama gave birth to a baby girl—stillborn—and my mother’s life was also in danger.  She was advised to never have another child, but when you are 17 years old you don’t pay much attention to such warnings. Lucky for me since I wouldn’t be writing this had she listened. Mama and Daddy eventually had eight children—raising six, as another baby was also stillborn.

My parents were married nearly 70 years before my father died just short of his 89th birthday. My 92-year-old mother still treasures his memory. They passed on a legacy of love to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I consider myself blessed to have grown up in a home where I was cherished, encouraged, respected and mentored in God’s gracious love.

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