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If you’re going to be married, you have to know where you’re going.
Blessed is the couple who understands their marriage as a pathway to heaven.
Carlton and Maggie met almost a hundred years ago in the rolling foothills of southern Ohio, near the Ohio River. Carlton was nine years old when his father gathered the kids in a wagon to go to a funeral. A neighbor had died, leaving behind a widow and four small children.
After the funeral, as children moved around the burial site, Carlton noticed little seven-year-old Maggie standing with her grieving family. “That’s sad,” he thought, “such a poor thing, now with no daddy.” And Carlton right then vowed to himself to keep an eye on her in the days and years ahead.
Soon, Carlton and Maggie saw each other every day. They were both part of a group of kids who walked to school together each day, traveling a mile down the road to their one-room schoolhouse.
Their friendship grew as each year passed. Carlton finished eighth grade and quit school so he could help his family tend the corn on their farm. Maggie eventually became a teacher in the rural schools of Ohio. They began courting. And together they went to church.
When Carlton turned twenty-four, he left the farm and moved to Pittsburgh to work in the mills. He needed to earn money, more than his family’s small farm could provide. So he began as a shoveler. He did well enough that four years later he and Maggie were married.
The couple and their families and friends gathered in the local church. An old retired priest, Father Newman, celebrated the Mass. He had to sit through most of the wedding, since he was past the age of eighty by then.
But Father Newman had a ritual. Before the Mass, he leaned over to Carlton and said, “When I pronounce you man and wife, hold Maggie’s hand and don’t ever turn her loose.” Carlton did just as he was told. To have and to hold from this day forward.
Afterward, they all celebrated with cake and lemonade, and the newlyweds spent the night in her mother’s home. They visited the next day with Carlton’s family, and enjoyed fried chicken and more cake. The day after that, the couple headed to Pittsburgh, so Carlton could return to work and Maggie could begin settling into her new home.
Carlton went back to work at the mill, in a city filled with smoke belching from the factories. Maggie was lonely in her new environment, and she often reminisced about all the folks back home. For better, for worse.
But things got better. She and Carlton found their new parish, with couples their age and friendships that provided fellowship, some of which lasted the rest of their lives. The Great Depression hit. Carlton’s mill remained open, but times were tight. He worked hard. Maggie handled the finances, and struggled to save a nickel here and a dime there. For richer, for poorer.
It was not long before they were expecting their first child. And Maggie was fine until one day in mid-May when she was about eight months into the pregnancy.
After breakfast that morning, she doubled over in pain. Carlton rushed her to the hospital. An hour passed, then another. He anxiously kept vigil in the waiting room as the doctor tried, desperately and successfully, to save both Maggie and the baby inside her.
The baby was born breech, and the process did much damage to Maggie’s small body, but the nurse brought Carlton a baby boy to meet in the waiting room. He and Maggie named the boy Thomas and called him Tommy.
Maggie and Tommy stayed in the hospital for another week. When they came home, little Tommy wouldn’t nurse well. Carlton and Maggie tried everything they could think of to get him to eat.
They took Tommy back to the doctor, who said, “This baby’s gotta have breast milk, or we’ll never raise him.” The doctor suggested that Maggie drink Malt-Nutrine, but the cost was simply too high for Carlton and Maggie to afford. So the doctor asked, “Can you make home brew?”
Carlton replied, “No, but I can learn fast.”
And learn he did. Carlton soon found that he could produce eighty bottles for a dollar, and Maggie drank three bottles each day. Finally, her milk fully came in, and Tommy began to grow. The crisis of Maggie’s birth and Tommy’s struggle to thrive only deepened the love that Carlton and Maggie shared.
The years passed quickly, with Carlton putting in long hours at the steel mill and working his way up the ladder from shoveler to supervisor. Tommy grew up. He went to college, joined the army, was stationed in California, and got married.
Eventually, Carlton retired, and he and Maggie soon moved to Fresno, California, to be near Tommy and his family. The pace of life slowed for Carlton and Maggie. They registered in the parish there and watched their two granddaughters grow up.
The calendar moved forward. Carlton cared for Maggie through breast cancer, cataract surgery, and two broken hips. Eventually, he did all the cooking. He washed, dried, and folded the clothes. He bathed her, because her vertebrae had collapsed from osteoporosis. In sickness and in health.
One August evening, Carlton turned off the television and they headed for bed, when Maggie collapsed in pain. He frantically called 911 and waited. At the hospital, Maggie had emergency surgery for a perforated ulcer.
Afterward, she simply needed more care than Carlton could give. The family made the decision to move her to Hope Community Home, a pleasant, caring place not too far from their home. Maggie soon made friends with all the nurses and residents. She was an easy patient, sweet, loving to laugh, and never complaining.
Her room was large enough so that Carlton could bring his rocker from home and place it beside her bed. It was the same rocker they had brought from Pittsburgh. The gentle creak of that chair comforted Maggie as she lay in the bed and Carlton sat nearby.
Maggie grew weaker and weaker. Carlton continued to feed her three times a day. He agonized over whether to move in with her but instead moved in with Tommy and his wife. Three times a day Carlton drove to be with Maggie at the care home. He still fed her each meal. When he gave up his driver’s license on his ninety-second birthday, he relied on the city van to drive him to the home so he could feed Maggie each meal and sit in that rocker beside her.
Carlton rinsed her dentures, stuffed pillows around her body in the wheelchair, and gently dried her hair. Each Christmas, he purchased her two new housedresses. He placed flowers in her honor at their church.
Maggie began to get more and more confused. She was not sure who or where she was. The more she failed, the more frantic Carlton became. Finally, after five years of feeding her every meal, he was told by his doctor that he would have to slow down. So he cut back to two visits per day.
On January 23, the family met with the doctor. The news was not good. Maggie had pneumonia, and she had stopped eating. Her body was beginning to shut down. Death was near. From that moment on, Carlton was at her side constantly, at first saying, “Maggie, don’t die. Please don’t leave me.”
Then, accepting that what she needed most was reassurance, he began saying, “It’s all right, honey. I’m right here. This is Carlton. I love you.”
January 27 was a Sunday. Tommy went to church and received the Eucharist. Everyone in church knew why Carlton wasn’t there. After the Mass, Tommy and their pastor joined Carlton to bring him Communion. They read the twenty-third psalm. Peace settled over them all.
They left. Carlton remained behind.
He leaned against the bed. “Good-bye, Maggie,” he said softly.
With her small hand resting in his, just as it had on the day they were married, Maggie breathed her last breath. Until death do us part.
A few days later she was laid to rest with a small box at her side. Inside the box was the faded pink dress she had worn sixty-six years earlier on the day they were married, when she had said she loved Carlton enough to share the rest of her life with him.
Although it would have been a privilege, I never got to meet Carlton and Maggie. When their story was shared with me, it was clear they had yearned to help each other get to heaven. They desired to make each other better. Their goal: to await each other on the other side of the river.
They embraced the secret of purpose. They knew the goal, where they were heading. Wisdom teaches, “Begin with the end in mind.” In other words, know where you’re going. Carlton and Maggie did just that. They knew their purpose (to get to heaven), and they pursued it together in marriage for more than sixty-six years.
Saint John of the Cross wisely shared: God’s purpose is to make your soul great. That’s purpose.
Most people will live up to, or down to, the expectations we have for them. When two people marry, if they embrace the expectation of making their partner better and helping him or
her get to heaven, the marriage will thrive. Even better, if they understand God is at work to make their souls great, they will have a common goal, something to aim at. They know where
they are going: to heaven, to God. And that is the highest expectation of all.
Know where you’re going. That is the secret of purpose.
by Allen Hunt
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Growing and building a great marriage does not happen by accident. Taking your relationship to the next level requires attention and effort. Even people in great marriages face challenges and encounter difficulties. What tools can you place in your hands to build the marriage you desire?
In The 21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage, best-selling author and communicator, Dr. Allen Hunt, shares the life-giving principles that are necessary for success in your relationship. Utilizing his decades of experience with couples, Dr. Hunt shares real-life wisdom and help for your marriage. He shows how:
The Secret of Purpose nourished one couple through the highs and lows of a 65 year marriage.
The Secret of The Little Things proves to be the greatest predictor of the health of your marriage as it draws directly from the wisdom of St. Therese de Lisieux.
The Secret of Ages and Stages provided the foundation for a couple’s 82 year marriage, the longest of its time.
The 21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage will equip you and your marriage to begin moving toward all that God hopes and desires for your relationship.
Back to The 21 Undeniable Secrets of Marriage (Paperback)
Author description goes here...
Alternative Headline Taking Your Relationships to the Next Level
Product Type Media Books
Author Allen Hunt
Publisher Beacon Publishing
Number of Pages 224
Book Format Paperback
Tool for Growing in Discipleship in Marriage
Simply written; but powerfully moving to call married couples to the greatness that Jesus intended for their life. I love this book's stories of real couples' lives. In the very first chapter I was in tears reminiscing my 48+ years of marriage to my now departed spouse. As a marriage prep mentor, I frequently gift couples with this tool for continuing their journey to greater unity. I hope that some of them will join together to do a book study and thereby create a small support group.
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