I have been a widow for seven years, but after my husband’s death, I could not see how blessed I had been to have shared my life with this man, the father of our boys, and to have been loved and protected by him. God must have sneaked into me strength to survive. Then, one day, I came to understand where my miracle had taken place.
Manny was my treasure, and I his. No regrets. That was my miracle. Manny was ill for seventeen months and during that periodGod had given me precious time with my husband to talk, to listen, and for us to tell each other that what we had found was a priceless treasure; one that some people dream about and are not as fortunate to find in a lifetime.
We coordinated the Family Ministry Group at a local parish in Miami for eight years and also the Evenings for the Engaged program, which is a six-week preparation for couples planning to be married in the Catholic Church. After Manny died, our Pastor asked me to continue. Last year, I was also honored to
be chosen to coordinate the Parish Council.
About a year and a half after I was widowed, our Pastor asked if I would speak to a group of young adults on marriage and family. I prayed and reflected how I would address this group, since the request came at a point in my life where I still was battling with many unsettled feelings. I had been a part of a "we" for so many years that the "me" had not totally found its place yet.
I decided to speak to the group from my heart, as I have found that when I allow my true feelings to speak for themselves, I can never go wrong. The group consisted of forty young adults that night. I began by giving a little background of myself and telling them I had been happily married for twenty-two years and that I was a widow for almost two.
I shared with them many personal stories of how we met and had grown to be such a happy couple. I explained that from the very beginning of our days together, Manny and I knew we wanted to create a marriage and family that would be together for life, centered in God.
The vocation to marriage and family requires dedication.
I truly believe that when you start a new relationship with God in the center, it has a better chance of working out for the best. We all know that with God in our lives everything is possible. And keeping God in the center of that relationship places you on the right track.
When we find that special person that we want to share our lives and dreams with, a lasting commitment cannot be made without making the decision on a daily basis to stay together. People think that one just falls in love, but this cannot be true. If you just fell in love, you could just as easily fall out of love.
It is important to realize that you must decide everyday of your relationship that you will place each other first. It is in this decision and from there on that the right path can be found.
I told the group I felt privileged to have had Manny as my best friend and husband, my soul mate and my lover, and the father of my children. He will live in my heart through eternity and I will also ensure that he does in the hearts of our two boys.
Marriage is a sign of Christ’s love for the church.
Each married couple must strive to represent this sign to the rest of the community. Learning to become that sign is a lifetime calling, a constant whisper in the ear. It is an on-going process of discovering God and learning what God is like from the experience of married life, from honeymoon to old age.
God is love, and the married couple is the living sign of God's love, first to each other and then to the whole world. Having God in your marriage, through the good and bad, is what makes marriage a true sacrament.
Newlyweds delight in physical intimacy, but quickly find they are learning new things about each other they hadn’t quite noticed before.The first task is to get to know, not necessarily understand, what makes the other tick. Spouses differ in family-shaped expectations, personality, habits, and rhythms of daily life.
Married couples need to learn to compromise, to appreciate the other's uniqueness. Married couples need to learn to accommodate differences, define roles, divide house chores, and deal with in-laws, etc.
Mystery keeps marriage interesting but it also makes me think that God has a true sense of humor. Why would He think that true unity is possible between two such disparate creatures? Having a sense of humor, however, is what makes the journey smoother.
There will be times when the differences seem insurmountable and loving a spouse is like loving your enemy, but choosing to abide by the promise "for better or worse" and remembering what first attracted you to each other with the decision of staying together can help you through those tough times and make a lifetime together seem worth it in the end.
Love is life giving, it gives life first to the couple creating a "we" out of the raw material of you and me. Married love reaches into all other relationships such as in-laws, friends, coworkers, and fellow parishioners and at some point takes flesh in children.
Becoming parents is an awesome task, bringing to the couple many joys and challenges. Watching a child grow brings a wonder that is indescribable. As a parent, you learn to see the world through the children's eyes and it teaches you a new meaning of love. You learn to love unconditionally, an ability you will need to hone over the years.
You will have many sleepless nights when your child is a newborn. And then you are off, trips to play baseball, ballet lessons, karate, the coming and going of teenagers. And you worry about the kids' health, safety, happiness, school, driving, dating (oh goodness, dating!), career, and most importantly, what kind of people your children will become. Children enlarge the couple's world, as playmates from school, parents, teachers, and first loves, all come into your life. Your children may marry and will continue to bring new ones into your family and your family will continue to expand.
All of the above-mentioned pressures can take a toll on a marriage as it leaves little time for candlelight dinners, romance, time alone for conversation or even unhurried lovemaking.But, when it is all said and done, this couple will know each other better than any one else in the world. They will know what hurts the other and how to please each other. And when the children move on with their own lives, this partnership, this marriage based on a real friendship and dedicated love, will continue to grow.
My family was very ordinary. We had the presence of a strong and devoted father, a loving mother and two great kids. Then one day without any warning, our world changed.
I always think of a table with four solid legs. When one of these is broken, the table is unstable and unbalanced. Until the remaining three legs can find the positioning necessary, you've got one waddling table. My kids and I have gone through this process. As a single parent I had to juggle many things around. It has been an incredibly difficult situation. Not only did I grieve for my loss and keep working towards my healing process, but I also needed to continue to hold up this table.
Families change and change is always difficult at first; but with perseverance, love, and adaptability, happiness in the new setting can be accomplished.
"Family" we must recall, is a bigger word than we sometimes allow for. A family is not automatically a gathering of highly spiritual human beings. Rather, a family is a way of living, a holy way to go. To belong to a family is holy. To commit oneself to marriage is holy. To struggle as a single parent is holy. To live together with these never-do-wells that I call my family, is plain and simple, holy. To work at being a family is holy, even if we fall short of our ideals.
Holiness in families comes from learning to forgive, to be reconciled, to face up to our problems, and do something about them. It includes qualities such as humor and laughter, compassion and understanding, striving to love and allowing yourself be loved by the others in your family. That is what holiness in a family is all about.
It means that you continue to struggle day after day to bring creative order, if only a little bit, to the chaos that family life entails. You do not try to be perfect according to a set of standards. A holy family looks like my family, your family, and the family next door. The last time I checked there were no haloes visible.
In the beginning you promise to love one another until death do you part. In the Old Testament of the bible, Song of Solomon 8:6, it says, "Love is strong as death." According to St. Paul , I Corinthians 13:13, "…of three things that last…faith, hope and love…love is the greatest." Your conviction to these words can carry you through a life filled with many joys and sorrows.
Sometimes couples disappoint each other, even hurt each other, but in a sacramental marriage God stays near, calling you to start over, to get ever closer to each other in love.
Personal experience of suffering and sorrow has taught me much. I have learned through my journey alone to love differently, not to be judgmental, to have humility, to push myself harder, and to trust that God will be there for me when I fall. I have learned to trust the past to God's mercy, the present to God's love and the future to God's providence.
I finished my talk by sharing the story of the old man that as he walked the beach at dawn he noticed a youth ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Finally catching up with the youth he asked him why he was doing this. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. "But the beach goes on for miles and there are a million starfish," countered the old man "how can your efforts make any difference?" The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to the safety of the waves. "It makes a difference to this one" he said.
I certainly want to make a difference in as many people's lives as I can. It is only with the insight and zest for life that the Holy Spirit lights within me and the love of our God, that I can now awaken every day and look forward to a new beginning.
Faith does not know what tomorrow will bring, but Who will bring tomorrow. The truth remains, that no one likes trials and tribulations, yet no one can escape them. We can let them ruin our lives, allowing ourselves to become bitter, angry and resentful, or we can look for the treasure that will let us love and serve our family and others better. Again, the choice is ours, for loving God, loving one's spouse and children, is first, last and always, a decision.
Manny was a most elegant gentleman. He always wore a warm smile for everyone and had a kind word to say to all he crossed in his path of life. I know that one of the issues that hurt him the most as he prepared to die, was the knowledge of not being here for us as we continued our journey through life.
This is why I decided when he died that I would not let him down, that somehow I would make it. I would be strong, well in heart, mind, body and soul. For that was the woman he had fallen in love with and had decided to share his life with; and thus I would continue to be.
I want that when he looks down on us with his known "wink and nod" that he can be proud and say "That’s my baby, still smiling and bubbly as she has always been, with a heart of gold, still a dreamer and believing that all is possible if one tries hard enough."
On September 12, 2000 we would have celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. From that day on, I decided to remember what we shared with a smile, with full confidence that what we had was great. Our twenty-five years ago began with two ordinary people, who because they believed in love, were willing to share their lives "for better or for worse until death did we part." I would remember the joy that love brought to me all those years and to continue to believe that of the three things that last, the greatest is love. That would be the tribute I would give my Manny.
There were many teary eyes in the group of young adults I spoke to, but when I finished the talk most of them came up to me to thank me for the honesty I shared. It made me smile and also made me realize that there is always a lesson, a lesson that makes us grow as individuals when we are not afraid to share of ourselves with others, with total openness.