I recently went to North Carolina with some friends to help the residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. I was there four weeks after Florence made landfall, but the damage she left in her wake was still apparent. Massive trees had been uprooted. Steeples had been blown off of churches. Most buildings had tarps fastened tightly to the roofs because the shingles had been ripped away. And that was just what was noticeable as we drove past.
As I met with residents, I learned of walls and carpet that were ruined, windows that had been blown in, and water-soaked furniture that had been ruined. One of the biggest problems from the hurricane aftermath, was the air ducts that had been flooded under the homes of the local residents. All the soggy duct work had to be removed. Thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.
Amidst all this devastation, Mary and Dale* were a beacon of hope. Dale is a local, he was born and raised in the home across the street. Mary is his wife and one of the kindest women I have met. As we pulled up to their home, the front lawn was beautifully manicured with a large, lighted, cross in the center. Theirs was one of the homes which needed the duct work removed. We crawled under the home and pulled out meters upon meters of soggy, insulation lined pipes. After gutting the duct, Mary and Dale kindly let us stay at their home for lunch.
As we talked with them over sandwiches, I learned this is the 5th time they have had to completely remove the heating and venting system due to flooding. 5 times! And yet, as my friends and I worked, they were nothing but cheery and grateful. Why was that? How were they able to be so hopeful and happy amidst such tragedy?
As I watched them I decided that their commitment and love in marriage made that happy difference in their lives. Their marriage to me made them cheerful during seemingly hopeless times.
Scientific evidence demonstrates that marriage is a major benefactor to the mental health of both men and women. As those who are married experience lower levels of depression and anxiety and overall less psychological stress than those who are cohabitating, single, divorced, or widowed.
Mary and Dale have been married for 49 years! They are making plans to celebrate their 50th anniversary by recreating their original wedding next year. Mary was almost giddy as she told us of their preparations for their wedding, as if she were a young bride all over again. She told us of their quaint Methodist church down the street and all the guests who she hopes will be at their second wedding ceremony. In many ways, she still is that young bride of 50 years ago. Social scientists reported that married people have a higher quality of life than the unmarried or divorced: meaning that they often live longer, healthier, happier, and have a more sexually fulfilling life.
For Mary, her marriage to Dale was her whole world. When she invited us into her home to show us pictures of her family, I asked if she had pictures from her wedding. Unfortunately, there weren’t any for us to see, however, hanging on her wall was a picture of Mary and Dale’s daughter wearing the most beautiful wedding gown; Mary’s wedding gown. Their daughter saw the joy that marriage brought to her parents and hoped to invite the same blessings into her life by bringing to her wedding a piece of Mary and Dale’s.
At a time when divorce is common, and commitment is not, Mary and Dale’s story is inspiring. Of course, these last 50 years have not been without their challenges, but marriage is not something to throw out and replace like old air ducts after flooding. Marriage takes effort, but it’s worth the work. Make plans today for your 50th wedding anniversary and don’t settle for anything less.
By- Emily Speth
*Names have been changed for privacy purposes