In just four months I will be saying “I do” to the kindest, most compassionate man on the planet. The past six years have been a whirlwind of travel, laughter, heartbreak, illness and most recently saying farewell to my best friend, my first love, my father. Loving someone unconditionally while they are navigating the early days of grief is not an easy task. I’m ashamed to admit that there were times my then boyfriend, now fiance became my punching bag because I was angry at pretty much everything. During my early days of grief there were moments when I know he was at a complete loss as to what to say, think or do. I was and sometimes still am engulfed in tears and sorrow. With tears in my eyes and a shattered heart, I witnessed my first love slowly fade away and watched my last love begin to take my dad’s place. Enduring the heartbreaking loss of my father with my fiance by my side has made me realize the tremendous value of marriage and sharing your life with your soul mate.

The moment a couple exchanges marriage vows a sacred bond is created. Marriage is a covenant between two adults. In front of God, family and friends a couple vows the following:

To have and to hold, from this day forward 

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness & in health,

To love and to cherish, till death do us part.

My parents would have been married 45 years this May 12th. I feel so fortunate to have had such magnificent role models for my own marriage. My parents shared a love that was infectious. You could feel it as soon as you entered our home. I have fond memories of my parents dancing to the Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” in the middle of our living room just because their favorite song came on the radio. As a kid it was embarrassing, as an adult it is something I hope for in my own marriage.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer our entire world came to a screeching halt. I watched my mother care for my father with the gracefulness of a swan. As horrific as it was watching my father battle cancer, it was beautiful watching two people demonstrate the meaning of unconditional love. Throughout my father’s cancer I watched my parents dance to their own Unchained Melody and embody the beauty and seriousness of marriage vows.

My parents’ marriage became the blueprint for relationships in my life and now for my own marriage. Below are the top 5 lessons learned from my parents’ marriage:

  1. Communicate– My parents always put all their cards on the table. There were no secrets in our household.
  2. Respect each other– My parents valued and admired each other. They were a team.
  3. Never go to bed angry– This was my father’s famous saying. Like normal humans, my parents would disagree from time to time, but my parents NEVER went to bed angry.
  4. Make Memories– From lazy Sundays in the pool, to long car rides our family has countless stories and photos. My dad always had the camera in his hand. Our stories and photos will last forever. 
  5. Love hard, love fiercely– My parents loved one another for who they were. They knew each other’s fears, worries and insecurities yet they loved each other despite every last one of them.

For many couples, falling in love and saying “I do” is the easy part. Living happily ever after is what requires hard work. As I plan my wedding, I vow to take a lesson from my parents’ love story; I promise to love with every fiber of my being. I promise to appreciate what I have and realize that marriage at times can be fragile and needs to be taken care of. I promise to love my husband when he is an unlovable jerk, because he has loved me unconditionally when I was an unlovable jerk. I promise to have patience during the dark times, because as my dad always said, the sun will always rise.

I promise all of this and more, you have my word.

Lisa Ingrassia

Lisa is the Director of Events at Zenith Marketing Group, an insurance brokerage firm located in Freehold, NJ. She is passionate about sharing her father’s journey with cancer and bringing attention the difficult path a caregiver must walk. She has written guest articles for the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders, The Mighty & Her View From Home. She is also a guest blogger for The Huffington Post. Fun fact: She’s obsessed with her Boston terrier Diesel and loves the color blue.