In praise of marriage

Reports of my emotional death are greatly exaggerated.

I’m still alive, still feeling the same approximate emotions normal people are inclined to experience.

Behind this cynical bluster, there is hopeful man willing to let the silver lining cloud his bleak vision occasionally. I know this. There lives an emotional being in these bones who rouses when I find myself reacting intensely to some of the most sappy stories just because they are…nice. Just because they are human. We are human, are we not?

Our desires are the same, aren’t they? We wish for the essentials in this life which bring us succor and a gentle warmth that washes over our souls. Ultimately we realize the only worth of our life is that kinship we feel for others. Family, friends, spouses. Yes, even spouses. I make it a point to avoid trashing marriage here (not that I don’t). Marriage as a modern vessel has been polluted and manipulated into a sodden carcass of ulterior motives and materialistic machinations. In theory, a healthy marriage is wonderful, perhaps admirable, but the present structure of our modern society is centered around the destruction and trivialization of cultural factors which embody and sustain healthy marriages. Marriage as a concept has no value. Marriage as a human institution and outgrowth of human ego and frailty is a farce, however. In other words, as the character of mankind degenerates, marriage too follows suit. The health of marriage is a reflection of the health of the soul of man.

I’ve known several “successful” marriages, I’m sure we all do. It’s an established and accepted notion that such marriages were not erected through an uninterrupted chain of perfection. Far from it. The greatest marriages are survivors of the great tribulation. My parents are one such example. Successful marriages do not just materialize. They are not an accident or luck. They demand a sense of selfless devotion and relinquishment of the ego and avarice. They require a pliable character and endurance. I don’t think we possess these traits in our superficial techno-era. For a variety of reasons, we are vain, self-absorbed and easily bored people unwilling to entertain the tiniest delights of this delicate life. Everything must be grand and startling and the mundane trails of marriage do not greet the modern mind well.

So I thought of this because of a rather sappy story I read earlier about an Iowa couple in their 90s who died form injuries sustained in a car accident on Wednesday. They died, holding hands, in the hospital’s ICU ward yesterday.

They got married on May 26th, 1939.

On the day she graduated from high school, Norma Stock said yes to Gordon Yeager.

“They’re very old-fashioned. They believed in marriage til death do you part,” said the couple’s son, Dennis Yeager.

Dennis was the youngest of four children born to the couple. His sister, Donna, was first born.

“Staying together for 72 years is good, I’d say that’s exceptional,” said Donna.

The way the kids tell it, dad was the life of the party, while mom kept everything together.

“Anybody come over, she was the hostess with the mostess. She just seriously, the more she did, the more she smiled. Dad would be the center of attention, like, ‘Weee look at me,’ and mom was like ‘get him away from me!’ You know we even got a picture like that,” said Dennis.

Norma didn’t really want the distance, she hardly left Gordon’s side for 72 years.

“They just loved being together. Everybody argues once in awhile, but they still, he said ‘I have to stick around. I can’t go until she does because I have to stay here for her and she would say the same thing,” said Dennis.

It’s almost as if they knew.

“Last Wednesday they left home to go into town. Somehow there was an accident,” said Dennis.

At the intersection of Highway 30 and Jessup Avenue, just west of Marshalltown, State Troopers said Gordon pulled in front of an oncoming car.

“I rushed from Des Moines where I was working and saw them in the hospital,” said Dennis.

In the intensive care unit of Marshalltown’s hospital, nurses knew not to separate Gordon and Norma.

“They brought them in the same room in intensive care and put them together, and they were holding hands in intensive care and then, with the morphine and everything they were not really responsive,” said Dennis.

Gordon died at 3:38 p.m. holding hands with his wife, and the family they built surrounded them.

“It was really strange, they were holding hands, and dad stopped breathing but I couldn’t figure out what was going on because the heart monitor was still going, But we were like, ‘he isn’t breathing, how does he still have a heart beat?’ And she checked and everything and said that’s because they were holding hands and it’s going through them. Her heart was beating through him and picking it up,” said Dennis.

“They were still getting her heartbeat through him,” said Donna.

A bit much?
Perhaps.
But no.
Who can ever put constraints on the magic of human relationships spanning a period longer than most of us have been alive?

We live in a jaded, anti-romantic world of strict functionality. The blogosphere is filled with tirades against marriage and women and much of it is in fact reasonable, and this is the saddest thing. The fact that criticism of marriage, as it’s laid out in 2011, is reasonable and that it is difficult for a person contending with today’s social environment to experience the naive and unquestioning wonder of love and the expectation that such a spiritual connection is possible with anyone.

Our Spirit is nearly dead. The spark of life still persists but these are tough times and the tearful realities of the present snuff the spark. We desperately strive to overcome such a shameful goal as celebrating the concept of marriage because it has been cheapened so by the impetus of modern man and tales like Gordon and Norma’s dwindle into antiquity they only knew when they were young and in love.


Gordon and Norma Yeager