If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Friday, February 1, 2013

See How Much . . . .

This is another essay I published in one of my books. I thought it might be helpful to repost it.
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For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life (St. John 3:16).



It’s easy to find the story of SHMILY. Laura Jeanne Allen published the anecdote of her grandparents’ mysterious word in a 1999 Chicken Soup for the Couple’s Soul. Since then, SHMILY – an acronym for “See How Much I Love You” – has raced across the world through the power of the internet.

During their 50 years of marriage, Andrew and Alice McAndrew’s love for each other found expression in hundreds of ways. They stole gentle kisses in the kitchen, held hands at every opportunity, and spoke their devotion to each other with their eyes. They knelt each day in church to meet with God, whom they knew to be the source of their love. They bowed their heads before each meal, acknowledging Him as the source of their sustenance.

Like many couples who have lived together for many years, they could end each other’s sentences, sense one another’s moods, and meet each other’s needs before those needs were even spoken.

For the greater part of their half-century marriage, Andrew and Alice passed See-How-Much-I-Love-You messages to each other like a sacred game of tag. They left notes scrawled with SHMILY on dashboards and car seats, under pillows and traced in the fireplace ashes. They wrote the word in the steam left on the mirror after a hot shower, and carved it into bars of soap. One time, Alice unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper and wrote the word on the last sheet.

During their last years together, breast cancer hung above their heads like a dark and ominous cloud. But the disease couldn’t cast a shadow on their love for each other. She held onto her husband’s steady hand as they continued their morning walks to church. She often whispered to her grandchildren how good-looking her husband was, and that she “knew how to pick ‘em.”

When her strength waned and forced her to remain indoors, Andrew painted their room yellow so she could feel surrounded by sunshine. When the cancer finally took her life, the family gathered for the funeral where, to no one’s surprise, they saw Grandpa’s final love note written on the pink ribbons of the funeral bouquet: SHMILY.

One of my favorite Scripture passages is from the book of Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands . . .” (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Most people who have seen a crucifix know of the placard placed by Pontius Pilate above our Lord’s head (John 19:19-22). It holds the acronym INRI – the first letters of the Latin phrase, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

When I heard about SHMILY, my imagination framed for me two lovers who had grown old together, who deeply cherished each other, and now Andrew suffered the loss of his life mate. Then, a moment later, my mind’s eye turned in another direction. It was there that I saw our Savior. I saw His hands nailed to the cross beams, His feet to the wood, the crown of thorns pressed into his forehead. And above His head, I saw the inscription on the placard:

It read, SHMILY.

16 comments:

deodate said...

Beautiful RIch. And to follow up from Song of Songs - "Love is stronger than death".

Richard Maffeo said...

Thank you, Andie. And your comment reminded me of that passage in Song of Songs 8. I think I might use that verse later. :)

rich

Joann Nelander said...

Thank you so much Rich. Your post is especially poignant as this year marks fifty years for my husband and I.
Before he went into surgery for a guadruple bypass he said to me, "See you on the other side," Fortunately, knowing his meaning was "only God knows now," it turned out that "the other side" was the aftermath of the operation, and they brought him back to me, so that we could make it this far.

Richard Maffeo said...

Joann, I thank God along with you for that wonderful reunion after the bypass. I can only imagine the fear that gnawed at you both. God bless you!

Nancy Shuman said...

This has really grabbed me, in a deeply personal way. Only a few years into our marriage, my husband began leaving ILY messages.. writing it on cards and even engraving it on a piece of jewelry he'd made me.... For "I love you," of course. And all this time, I've thought we were the only ones doing such things :).

How beautiful about the crucifix.

Richard Maffeo said...

Thank you,Nancy. Yours, too, is a wonderful story of marital love.

Athanasius Contra Mundum said...

Indeed He loves us enough to offer Himself as the Paschal Lamb in our Passover from the slavery of sin.

Christian LeBlanc said...

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."

Ha! I cover this verse every year in Catechism class! In part it shows that the Father's love isn't limited to only masculine aspects in an Earthly sense; and that He also thinks of us individually, right down to each hair on our head.

Richard Maffeo said...

Christian, I agree. We cannot teach it often enough that God is concerned for us as specific individuals -- right down to the numbers of hairs on our head and red blood cells in our veins. Such knowledge, internalized, will change us for the better.

Richard Maffeo said...

Athanasius -- to which I say, "Thanks be to God." I like what St Paul says in Gal 1:3-4.

Colleen said...

What a beautiful story. And the crucifix - SHMILY.

My husband and I write - "Love Forever and 2 days."

God bless!

Richard Maffeo said...

Very nice . . . forever and 2 days. I really like that.

regina said...

Every evening I carry on a tradition my grandmother passed to my mother when i lightly scribble INRI with my finger on my childrens' heads when i put them to sleep. i love your blog and will continue to check back. thanks!

Richard Maffeo said...

What a wonderful tradition you are maintaining, Regina. May God richly bless you and the family.

Ultreya Coeur said...

Beautifully written post

Richard Maffeo said...

Thank you, Ultreya.