There’s been this story – over a year old now – I’ve read roughly 10 times. On a landscape such as the Internet in 2012, stories, similar to music, come and go so frequently the great majority of material is swept under the rug. The one I’m referring to is different, for me at least. It’s a tragedy. But more than that, the story of Gordon and Norma Yeager is a fascinating account of two people and their devotion to the words, “I do.”
Since May 26, 1939 – the day Norma graduated high school – the two were husband and wife and by all accounts would spend the next 72 years head over heels infatuated with one another. They started a family together. They laughed together. They argued together (because what couple doesn’t argue, especially over damn near three quarters of a century). And, as cryptic as it sounds, they died together.
Gordon and Norma were in a car accident heading into a small Iowa town. The crash left them with broken bones and several other injuries not conducive to bodies dealing with 90+ years of wear and tear. With her chest writhing in pain and his back causing all sorts complications, their concerns were with the other. “She was saying her chest hurt and what’s wrong with Dad? Even laying there like that, she was worried about Dad,” said the couple’s son, Dennis Yeager. “And his back was hurting and he was asking about Mom.”
At some point, between the family and doctors, the decision was made to put Gordon and Norma in the same room given the fact their health would only worsen. As they orchestrated their entire lives, they held hands and went through life’s most daunting hurdle (death) as a team. Gordon died at 3:38 in the afternoon, but still managed to have a heart beat. That heartbeat was Norma’s. Even in death, he lived through her and she lived for him. Norma would pass away an hour later.
Times have inexiplicably changed since Gordon and Norma tied the knot. The concept of marriage is viewed differently. Commitment has as well. Yet, even as large chunk my generation proudly vows to never get married, the risk of putting oneself out there and trusting in another person is still worth the Russian Roulette.
My grandma was a product of divorce in the 1970s. Of having love falter and never seeing the story book ending envisioned at the commencement of her relationship, she always has kept it 100 with me. “You’d be a fool to stay around when everything has hit the fan, but a fool not to even open your heart to love at least once. Finding the best in someone is the closest we’ll ever get to meeting God on Earth.”
Asked why she stuck around in a marriage which had clearly gone astray years earlier, all she said was, “I took my vows seriously. Being faithful meant something to me.” And that’s just it. Being faithful, whether through marriage or simply a long-term relationship, means something to nearly everyone. Admitting such isn’t the “cool” thing to do in a society priding itself on, at times, looking for the worst in a person instead of the good, but there remains some truth embedded within the notion.
Anthony Hamilton’s “The Point Of It All” spoke to the values of the quality from a more modern perspective, yet timeless and gut-wrenchingly soulful at the same time. Temptations, second-guessing and any form of hesitation comes with the territory. It’s human nature. However, realizing the magnitude of the investment is what matters most. I’m assuming that’s what Gordon and Norma Yeager saw in each other as America struggled through the Depression and the globe with its second World War. I’m assuming they lived their lives to the words of this song, despite probably having never heard the first second. Love, like fingerprints, is unique only to the person it resides in. Not everyone’s marriage will see 72 years, or even 72 months in these times. Not everyone is meant to. That’s just the reality of the situation, and better yet life itself.
“‘Till death do us part…”
For those lucky enough, that one statement defines their pact. For the special few, like Gordon and Norma, sometimes it lasts even longer.
Anthony Hamilton – “The Point Of It All”