It’s presumptuous to think that you can write something that’s a worthy commemoration to 60 years of wonderful marriage. So that is not what I’m setting out to do. Instead, please accept this simply as a humble tribute to my parents whom I dearly love.
Two big things have to happen to be married for 60 years: 1) you need to live a long time; 2) you need to stay married a long time. Mom and Dad, the blessed Bonnie and Miles Shafer, are ably doing both. They continue to redefine for all of us each new decade of age they enter, and in their marriage they actually seem to be counting backwards, getting younger and more vibrant in their love as they go along.
My sister, Becky (“Beck”), and I know that we are blessed. We’ve had the gift of being reared by loving, selfless, nurturing parents. Of course, that’s because they were a loving, selfless, nurturing couple to begin with. They met at the Church of God Campmeeting grounds in Springfield, Ohio. Mom, the daughter of a faithful church pastor; dad, the son of a faithful family every pastor wished they had in their church. Dad was helping to park cars at Springfield Campmeeting on a summer evening in 1953. Mom was in one of those cars with her family. To hear Mom tell it, she was smitten by this handsome young man in his t-shirt and official car-parking whistle. To hear Dad tell it, it was her cuteness and charm that got his attention.
It was a match made in heaven and on September 29, 1956 they declared “I do” to something God had already put together. And you know, they’ve been following that pattern, in some form or another, ever since. Mom and Dad are what it looks like to reap the benefits of living the gospel message, being obedient to what God puts before them: to speak truth when needed, to dispense grace when needed, to bestow forgiveness when needed, to keep at bay those things that try to sneak in and destroy. They are what it looks like to live a humbly contented life, free of bitterness, jealousy, envy and other things that erode the body and harden the heart. It’s this humble contentment, I think, that has freed up their minds and hearts to love so selflessly on Beck and me, on our extended family, on our church, on friends, and on anyone who made their way to Mom and Dad’s dining room table.
This humble contentment certainly put them in position to be the best parents in the world—all due respect to any present-company parents reading along. If I may, let me count a few ways.
First, there is their hidden, surprising sense of adventure. Before they knew how to camp, they took us camping. When they felt the nudge to leave the city to find solace in the country, they left familiarity and moved. Before they knew about livestock and farming they brought home three ponies. Knowing nothing about construction, they built a house with the help of friends. Neither finished with a college degree, but they sent their two off on that wonderful college adventure. For their 50th wedding anniversary we took a hiking trip to Big Mountain and Glacier National Park in Montana.
Then, there is their high capacity for music. Through day to day life they taught music to both Beck and me and encouraged us with formal lessons. Car trips always involved singing. Of all the great voices I’ve heard, Dad’s mellow baritone is still my favorite and I’ve always loved that Mom can play anything on the piano—anything! Over the years, Dad has faithfully kept Preble County’s pianos in tune while they both blessed the Eaton First Church of God with professional-grade music long before the church was able to hire a professional-grade musician.
Of course there is the open sanctuary of their home. Whether kneeling for prayer in the living room, or gathering for meals around the table, or saving your fork for apple pie, Mom and Dad’s home has provided sanctuary by the tableful. Through Beck’s and my high school years our back yard served as the after-game gathering spot for players, band, fans, parents, coaches, and of course, Squeak our dachshund, who turned into an actual hotdog after eating a nightful of scraps.
Speaking of pets, Mom and Dad graced us with many. History has shown Squeak and Lassie (beautiful black and white collie) to be our primary pets with many other animals serving as worthy back up pets (cats, ducks, gerbils). This also meant Mom and Dad ministered gracefully to us when it was time for each pet to find its way to pet heaven. What you don’t know at the time is that in between comforting you and being strong they are having their own cry times. And of course, they knew from the start that those times would come. But they knew the pet experience would be worth the pain. In retrospect, that may have been one of their smartest moves in truly preparing their kids for life.
I close this writing while sitting at my desk with the window cracked open, listening to the night bugs and sounds. And that’s appropriate. Mom and Dad taught us the joy of the simple. They provided the kind of home environment in which something simple like the sound of night bugs can minister to your heart, quiet your mind, and drift you off to sleep. If you can hear the bugs, it means you can’t hear other noises that might keep you awake: traffic, city sounds, noisy neighbors, your own mind. It’s peaceful. And there you have it. That’s the word. Of all the great words that could sum up home life under my parents, I am inclined to choose peaceful simply because it’s the byproduct of all the other great words that are added into that sum: selfless, loving, secure, and of course, fun.
We are blessed to have our folks reach this milestone, the Diamond Anniversary. I love Mom and Dad. I love who and what Beck and I have been able to become because of who Mom and Dad are. But it’s not just us, it’s all the people around Mom and Dad. Beck and I are blessed, not just because of our wonderful folks, but because of the people they have impacted.
Years ago Mom and Dad bought 2.5 acres of woods with a creek running through it and a clearing near the road. When the idea of building a home on that idyllic plot of land was still just a glimmer in their eyes, we would head to that woods to play, grill out, and do mowing and clearing. Each time we’d pull out and head to our farmhouse home, usually just after dusk, mom would point at the woods and say, “Someday won’t it be nice to see some warm lights glowing in a home right at the edge of those trees?” That someday soon came and those lights have been serving as a beacon for friends and families on myriad journeys and have left a glow in the hearts of all those who’ve been inside the home, most likely gathered around the dining room table.
I love you Mom and Dad! Happy Anniversary!