By Donna Tobin Smith
It happened many years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. I had gone to visit my daddy in the nursing home. When I walked into the room, Daddy’s noisy snore let me know that he was sound asleep once again. It was my third visit to the nursing home that week and no matter what time of the day I went, Daddy was never awake. So I talked to the man who shared the room with my father.
“I don’t understand it,” the man said to me with a puzzled look on his face. “Even though I see it with my own eyes every day, I just can’t explain it. Your father is different when your mother is here. When your dad is awake, he’s usually talking loud and he’s restless. He doesn’t understand what the nurses are doing when they try to care for him and he doesn’t like it. But when your mother is here, he’s like a different person. I can see the calming effect she has on him. Her voice, her touch. It really is amazing to watch.”
I knew exactly what he was talking about. I had seen it, too. My father let my mother do things for him that he would have resisted if others had tried. Although dementia had ravaged his memory, he let her shave his face with an electric razor and clip his fingernails while she gently explained what she was doing and why she was doing it.
“It’s the fifty-three years,” I had explained to my daddy’s roommate. Their anniversary was that month. Fifty-three years of good times and hard times. Fifty-three years of one day at a time, sharing a love that “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13: 7).
A love that had never failed.
My mother and father met at a square dance way back in the 1950s. Some of my most precious memories of my parents are of them dancing together. From the time he was a boy, Daddy had made a name for himself as a dancer. When Daddy was just a child, he loved to dance on a stump to collect nickels that people tossed his way to show how much they liked his smooth moves. As he twirled my mother across the dance floor, Daddy had an undeniable gentle rhythm that made people move back and watch in wonder. My mother, a wonderful dancer herself, was his perfect partner.
But as their anniversary approached that year, the lights had dimmed and the music had faded. He was in bed all the time. Every move was hard and he often grimaced in pain. Yet my mother sat by his bedside day after day, lovingly stroking his face and patting his head, gently passing butterfly kisses across his forehead.
It was in those sweet moments that I knew that the dance of my parents was far from over. It was a dance that would last into eternity. It was a dance of perfect rhythm, borne of devotion and adversity. It was a dance blessed and ordained by a holy God with a perfect purpose and plan.
Perhaps the words of “The Anniversary Song” say it best. “The night seemed to fade into blossoming dawn. The sun shone anew but the dance lingered on. Could we but relive that sweet moment sublime, we’d find that our love is unaltered by time.” (Lyrics by Pleyer and Ivanonici.)
I have seen with my own eyes that even heaven and earth do no separate the kind of love that my parents shared.
So Mama and Daddy, I hope you dance.
On golden streets.
No. I know you will dance.