During the course of the past several weeks I have done three funerals for three ladies ranging in age from 69 to 89. Interestingly enough they had one thing in common. Each of those ladies “ran off” to get married when they were 17 years old. It was difficult to secure a wedding license in some states at that age. At least two of my above mentioned friends took off for Oklahoma, so they could get married.
What was the outcome? Two of the marriages lasted over 50 years. One of the marriages lasted well beyond 60 years. Apparently each of them took the “till death do you part” vow very seriously.
I have been trying to figure out for the past several days what to do with this information. Even in death, they are still an example to the rest of us. Their commitment to marriage can still impact our lives today. As I get images in my mind of these older ladies taking off to get married at 17, several things come to mind.
• I am sure they had their detractors. There is not much doubt that someone in their immediate or extended family told them that it will never last.
• Each of the three couples had major obstacles to overcome early on in their married life. In the case of two of them, World War II was going on as they shared wedding vows. All three of the couples were impacted by military service in the early years of their married life.
• None of them enjoyed immediate financial prosperity!
• In each of the three marriages, children arrived fairly soon.
All three of these ladies lived as widows for varying periods of time. And all three of their husbands struggled with failing health before their deaths. At 17, my friends probably had no clue what the vow “in sickness and in heath” would ultimately mean down the road. But they cared for their husbands with great diligence.
Are you ready for your 17 year old daughter to run off and get married? I would think not. The latest research in human development is saying that adolescence for teens in our culture today is extending into the mid-twenties. I do think that my three impetuous friends, who ran off to get married, can still be a tremendous example for us today. They said their vows and they obviously meant it. I do wonder though…As they made plans to run off and get married, did anyone tell them: “You can’t do that! She is only 17!”