It must have been fall when she first heard him sing, because she remembers how his tenor soared among the fiery maple leaves one hundred feet above ground as she sat by her window. It made her breath come in gasps, as if she was doing the singing. She saw him from a distance many times, but they conversed only shyly in small bites, like sparrows pecking at morsels of maybe. Then came the moment he told her he had hopes. Contagious, those hopes.
They wed in her parent’s yard, June sun and rain alternately pouring down. His truck carried them west as if with a will of its own, like a wild horse in search of a mountain herd. They lived simply and worked hard under the big sky.
He had a powerful build, but she came to the marriage rail-thin. Some subconscious torment had kept her in a state of semi-starvation until her ribs stuck out and her hair shed in clumps. His unshifting love and acceptance, his stance that she was beautiful regardless, put ground beneath her feet such that she finally walked away from her fears, including her fear of calories. Though we won’t know until eternity, he may have saved her life. He definitely saved her health and made childbearing possible. In more ways than one.
She chose natural childbirths. The angst of labor and the joy of birth prophesied of the longer labor of birthing each child’s individuality. Nothing cements a man and woman together like raising children. Even today they recollect the little scenes of those years—the dramas, the accidents, the hilarious goof-ups—as if an open channel flows back and forth between their minds. They float through the memories together, blissfully, in the same boat. They’ll never leave the boat, nor will anyone else come on board. It’s sacred, like a vow.
Love is the most difficult thing, and the easiest thing. Love feels unnatural, but then makes nature sing. Love is pure, cold principle, and flooding, hot passion. Love is a towering edifice requiring years of toil, and a flower growing at our fingertips, waiting to be picked. Love is a mystery, but an obvious one. It can’t be explained; but it can be known.
Marriage provides an opportunity to know love. God established marriage in Eden, along with the Sabbath. He built a relational structure fitted perfectly to our needs—one man and one woman, together for life. Within that structure, love is learned, as one learns a foreign language through immersion. Flesh protests as if about to die; and it does die, repeatedly, slowly, painfully. But out of the compost of dead nature love gathers its strength.
He still sings — in the shower. Their children are grown, so his voice bounces off the walls of their more-empty house. In fact, he’ll get up two hours from now, shower, sing, dress, eat breakfast, and go off to work for approximately the 8,320th time in 33 years. Michael Schwirzer, I love you!