A Group of People

Love ~ Beneath the Thin Veneer

In examples, lessons, love and marriage, marriage, relationship on February 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm

When they met, people said it would never last.

By @lizdugger

It was movie time in Bayview. Saturday night on the Oregon coast. A full moon took its place over the Alsea Bay as a group of young friends hiked the mile-and-a-half trestle to the Waldport Theatre. They were carefree and excited about who they might see.

A few miles south another group was headed to the movies. Loggers, driving from the worker’s camp near Yachats, bumped over the beach (before the Roosevelt Hwy was built) in their early ’20s rigs. They’d scrubbed the smell of sweat and sawdust away and were ready to charm some ladies.

She saw him from the ticket line where girls chattered back and forth watching the young loggers strut their stuff. Helen’s eyes got big as she whispered through a little giggle to her sister, “I sure like him!” Her glance had fallen on Hugh.

Hugh saw her, too, and when she looked away, made a stealthy move to tap her on the shoulder. “Can I take you to the show?” She said yes, so together they went. After the movie he walked her all the way home across the trestle to Bayview. Then, turned around, crossed the trestle again, got his old jalopy in Waldport, and drove back down the beach to the logging camp.

That’s the way it all started, but people said it would never last. I’d probably have said that, too, if I’d known she was 15 and he was 27 that night in the ticket line when the moon cast a spotlight upon Hugh. They eloped the next year – June 1927 – three months after Helen’s 16th birthday.

After a few years, Helen wondered if peoples’ doubts about her and Hugh could be true. Their marriage had come upon some problems as most peoples do. But alcohol was involved and had put their love in a sort of stupor. The type not all relationships are able to recover from. Helen didn’t know what to do.

One day, she heard a man on the radio. She said it was as if he were talking straight to her.

“Hey you, by the radio,” he said. “You’ve got some problems you don’t know how to handle. How about kneeling down right by your radio and asking Jesus to live in your heart?” So she did.

Hugh didn’t want anything to do with this. He had a stubborn streak that falling fir trees might not even crack. But she loved him. So she prayed and persevered.

They wanted everyone to know about their new hope ..

A few months later, Hugh agreed to go with her to a special meeting. They called them “Revival Meetings” back in those days. He remembered the preacher giving an invitation to come forward, and felt like someone nudged him, pushing him out of his chair into the aisle. Helen promised she hadn’t touched him. But she knew who had.

Love won. God and Helen’s love acting as one. The stupor turned to sensibility and they flourished in a new way of living. Hard-headed Hugh was a changed man and wanted everyone to know it. Together, they started spreading the news to everyone who’d listen. They were holding their own revival meetings, teaching Bible studies, and broadcasting a Sunday morning radio show called, “The Voice of the Everlasting Gospel,”  from the Little Corral, their humble home in Bayview.

These were good days. But after about five years, the love people said wouldn’t last was put to another test. Helen answered the phone and was told that Hugh had been in a horrible accident, getting hit by a log truck. For the next year, he stayed at Providence Hospital in Portland, Oregon, where he learned to live as a quadriplegic. She learned to be a caregiver, like a live-in nurse, so Hugh could come home.

Love took a turn in their 31st year. Helen poured out her life, proving love true, as she served his helpless body. Hospital equipment filled the room they once shared, including an actual hospital bed, pneumatic lift to help her get him from the bed to the wheelchair and vice-versa, bed pans, catheters, wheel chair … Helen moved her bed to an alcove in the back of their tiny house where she learned to find God as her helper.

After about fourteen years she could no longer keep up with his taxing needs day and night so they

Hugh became a quadriplegic after being hit by a log truck.

made the painful decision to move Hugh to a nursing home. Helen was soon discontent with the care he received so she became licensed and worked where he stayed. The love she’d vowed would not allow her to disengage on the sidelines or into the background while her husband suffered from bedsores and other ailments due to neglectful nursing. “Everything” is what she gave, sacrificially, for him.

February 24, 1977, Hugh was freed from his physical prison and Helen released from her marriage vows. People said it would never last … but less than four months after he passed away, Helen recognized the anniversary marking 50 years with her first and only love who’d caught her eye that summer night under the Oregon moon.

* * *

Growing up, I didn’t think of my grandparent’s life as a love story. More like a tragedy. Heartache and broken dreams. But today I think of  I Corinthians 13 – the famous “Love Chapter” that millions of lovers have printed on their wedding invitations –

“… Love is patient, love is kind …
not self-seeking … always protects …
trusts … hopes … perseveres …”

– and I’m speechless at their story of rare and real love. Love that didn’t fail beneath the thin veneer of selfish expectations and fickle feelings. A reminder that genuine Love has power to triumph over all.

I never saw my Grandpa walk. He was either in this bed or his wheelchair.

Thank you, Grandma & Grandpa, for your real life lesson on Love.


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