My husband lost the patriarch of his family this year with the passing of his Uncle Ralph, a WWII Veteran. His Uncle Ralph and Aunt Helen were known in the Johnson family as “the ones” who sent Thanksgiving cards instead of Christmas cards. Every year for as long as we know, a wonderful update would arrive (in beautiful, cursive hand-written words) detailing Ralph and Helen’s year, what their children and grandchildren were up to.
When we opened the envelope this year we wondered how Helen would describe her year. Maybe it would be a “Happy Thanksgiving” greeting with a simple signature.
Instead, Helen penned a beautiful tribute to her husband. “If only” were the words that kept coming to my mind as I read her piece. As I work with men and women who seem like refuges from a long war battle because of their marriage, I couldn’t help but think, “if only.” “If only” couples could have eyes to see each other in new ways. “If only” marriages could really be a haven of comfort and peace from the world. “If only all the couples could have a Ralph and Helen marriage.”
I pray for marriages in our culture. They are under attack and surely many couples seem to truly be in a war. “If only more marriages could survive the trials life brings to end in a tribute such as Aunt Helen’s. Helen’s given permission to share some of her thoughts with you today. God bless you Aunt Helen as you continue to be such a wonderful influence in the Johnson family.
In memory of your passing, April 15, 2013…..
Dear Ralph, Dad, PaPa:
I keep thinking back to the first day we met, December 31, 1944. You had just turned 19 and I 18. You were so handsome! We were both swept away by the thrill and excitement of New Years Eve, as well as our surprising and provident meeting. Neither of us could have ever believed that a blind date would prove to be this “heaven-sent.”
Our courtship, by mail for a little over a year, was so meaningful, allowing us time to get to know each other better even as the distance separated us. I was always excited to receive your letters, living with my folks in Chicago while you were stationed in the Navy. I loved hearing about your experiences and sharing our thoughts, plans, and aspirations for our future.
Marrying you on July 6 of ’46, was the happiest day of my life. Whenever I listen to Andy Williams’ recording of Hawaiian Love Song or Vaughn Monroe’s There I Said It Again (our song,) I can just picture us as that young couple again, filled with hopes and dreams. Our marriage (of 66 years) was solid and unshakeable from the start as we met challenges, disappointments, and happiness with grateful hearts, knowing it was all part of “God’s will.”
Blessed and inspired by our many friends and family, our living spiritual communities, and especially our four remarkable children, our joys continued for years. I know the good Lord works miracles in our lives every day.
The holidays were always such a special time for you; playing Santa, passing out gifts, celebrating the season singing with the Sun City Singers, and raising your voice in praise at Christ Lutheran Church.
Thanks, dearest Ralph – husband, father, grandfather, and friend – it has been a spectacular journey.
We all miss you so much! Your never ending love made each of us feel special. We know God looks upon you with love saying, “Job Well Done, Ralph.”