So the girls asked Ron and me to be the ones to stand up and say things today. I guess it is the least we could do since they did about everything else for this event. I suppose it is a blessing to have some girls who take responsibility in that respect. I’m not sure if Cindy or I will have much of a 50th anniversary celebration unless we have some daughters-in-law who will step up. Ron got the beginning of this event and had to sing; I’m supposed to give a cute and touching speech of some sort here at the end. Mom and dad, I’m sure your siblings here have a different perspective on your 50 years of marriage, and each of us kids, no doubt, would say something different about you. But they asked the philosopher to talk, so that’s what you’ll get. I hope I’m speaking for all of us.
I’ll tell you right up front that I doubt I’ll get through this little speech without getting a little weepy. I’m not sure from which of you I inherited this trait, but whenever I talk in front of a group of people about something that means a lot to me, these wells of emotion rise up in what is otherwise a fairly stoic and even melancholy personality (I think we know which one of you that came from). So if it makes any of you uncomfortable to see a middle-aged bald man cry, feel free to look away.
42 years ago today, the two of you sat waiting, on the eve of what I’m sure was the happiest day of your lives. I can’t comment with much authority on those first 8 years of your marriage, and even the next few after that are a little fuzzy. But from all I can tell, you’ve had a remarkable 50 years together. You’re not perfect, and in the interest of fairness and balance, I toyed with the idea of taking some time here to let people air their grievances against you. But I suppose this isn’t the time for that. And with all seriousness, that would be a very short list compared to the blessings that you have been to all of us.
One of the things I’ve observed about your marriage, your life together, is that you have this gift that you tend to make the people around you better—not necessarily better than they are, but you have had a way of bringing out the best in them. That may be the students you’ve taught in your classrooms, or staff you’ve worked with; people in your Sunday School class over the years and decades; your small group, your neighbors, and friends. I don’t know how to describe this other than to say, things tend to go better when you’re around. You’ve touched hundreds of people. And since you wouldn’t let us throw you a big party and bring all those people to tell you so in person, we’ve compiled a scrap book with many of their messages and memories. [Marci present scrap book #1.]
Secondly, without getting into the technical and salacious details, we five kids are most literally the fruit of your marriage and love for each other. About any guy and girl can create a new life in a moment of passion, but we found ourselves coming to be in the midst of a family with two parents who loved and respected each other. Again, you weren’t perfect, but one of the most valuable gifts you could give us was your love for each other, and a stable and godly marriage. I know that I took that environment for granted for many years of my life, and was shocked to learn that not all families worked that way. I hope we might have learned something from you in that regard, and that our kids might feel without a doubt that their parents love each deeply.
I think we’ve learned by now that pouring yourselves into your children is not always a reflexive relationship. I think it is fair to say that the parents give more than they receive. This is obviously the case on the financial side of things when your kids are still young. But even as adults, you’ve been generous with finances to us beyond what we will ever pay back. I remember one time during my graduate school years in Boston, talking to you on the phone about various woes, and then saying, “And to top it all off, our transmission went out this week.” Dad, you said, “Don’t worry about that. Any problem that can be fixed with money isn’t that big of a problem.” Of course that’s true if you have money, and you knew we didn’t have any at the time, so you paid to get the transmission fixed. I’m sure each of us has similar stories of how you’ve been generous without enabling unwise behavior, and without making us feel that we were your indentured servants. I doubt that we’ll ever pay you back, but I hope to be able to do the same for my kids.
And then of course we kids have been the beneficiaries of your spiritual commitment. Whether it was consistent times of family devotions, regular church attendance and a commitment to serve there, or even the music ministry of the Stump Family Singers, you inculcated habits in us that tend to become a way of life. Mom, I remember one vacation Bible school in St. Louis when I was pretty young, and you encouraged me to memorize a bunch of Bible verses. That became a habit that I’ve turned to over and over throughout my life. And for all of us, you maintained the kind of spiritual environment in which it was the natural thing for us to embrace the faith that was obviously so important to you.
Again, we can’t pay you back for that. We can only attempt to pass on your legacy by being the kind of parents to our children that you’ve been to us. We hope that is reward enough, to see that your fruit has produced fruit of its own now, that bears some resemblance to you. As a constant visual reminder of all this fruit, Cheri has put together another scrap book of all of us. We hope you can see in these pictures tangible evidence of your faithfulness to each other, to us, and to God.