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How they lived the words of Jesus

Today is St Valentine’s Day, when it seems appropriate to ask what a long and happy marriage takes.

The theologian Walter J Burghardt proposes three elements – a sense of humour, a sense of wonder, and each partner having a developed sense of the value of the other.

Here is a true anecdote. Perry had been married almost 60 years. The first anniversary of his marriage he was flat broke. So he asked a florist to trust him for a single rose. Perry brought the rose to Bess – together with a love letter. Each anniversary, that lovely ritual was re-enacted: two roses, three, ten, 25, 40 – always with a love letter. After 50 years he still greeted his wife with a kiss after each separation. Whenever he mixed drinks for friends before dinner, no one ever drank before Perry called Bess from the kitchen – Bess who never drank – for the first toast: ‘’To the queen!’’

That marriage lasted because Bess and Perry had a ceaseless sense of the other. A businessman, he never put business before Bess. A homemaker with friends beyond counting, for Bess the priority was always Perry. And their very concern for each other impelled them to concern for all others – every person who needed their love and care.

This is how they were able to live the words of Jesus that many wedding couples select as part of their Bible Reading : ‘‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’’ (John 15: 12)

Rev Richard Morrison

Whaplode Drove, Gedney Hill, Whaplode and Holbeach St Johns