A few days ago, a dear friend of mine, Ruth Brooks, passed away, after a long struggle with multiple ailments. As soon as I found out she had died, I called her husband, one of my dearest friends and mentors, Michael Brooks, to extend my condolences, see how he was doing, and reminisce about Ruth.
I have known Michael & Ruth for over 40 years. When I first met Michael, I was in high school and he was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. We met because he was my Hebrew high school principal and taught a number of my classes. We quickly bonded and have remained close friends ever since. In fact, he officiated at our wedding over 32 years ago.
Although Michael mentored me in many ways, perhaps the important way is the way that he and Ruth opened my heart to the possibility of a loving & respectful marriage. Unfortunately, I grew up with parents who did not love or respect each other and between watching their dysfunctional relationship and observing our media’s portrayal of so many dysfunctional marriages, before I met Michael and Ruth, I was convinced that marriage was something to be endured for the purposes of procreation and social acceptance, but not to be enjoyed.
That changed when I moved to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan and regularly visited Michael and Ruth’s home, often for a Sabbath lunch. I marveled at their love for each other and the way they respected each other. At one point, I told Michael how his marriage impressed me tremendously. He responded by saying that, “my wife is my best friend.”
This truly stunned me as this type of marriage was completely foreign to my existence, and I told him so, to which he responded, “I couldn’t imagine it any other way.” This heartfelt declaration which Michael and Ruth lived with such great mutual fulfillment for so many decades truly opened my heart and mind to the possibility that I, too, could find a woman who could be my wife and my best friend.
A few years later, I fell in love with Sheryl who has now been my wife and best friend for over 32 years. Here we are celebrating our anniversary a couple of months ago.
When Michael & I spoke about Ruth and I reminded him of this story, he told me that the last words she said to him was to thank him for making her life more exciting than she ever could have imagined it would be. In turn, he thanked her for keeping him more grounded than he would have been without her.
This type of mutual assistance is critical to a strong, loving, respectful relationship that allows a marriage to endure the trials and tribulations of life. In the case of Sheryl & I, we provide many things to each other, but to boil it down, I believe that Sheryl has softened my approach to life and I have helped her gain self-confidence to speak up for herself when necessary. We both hope to live and stay happily married to each other at least as long as her dearly departed grandparents, Eugene & Lillian Fishgoll, who died 2 weeks apart at the ages of 98 & 92, after 74 years of marriage.
A happy, healthy marriage is good for the couple and any children they may have. In this era of high divorce rates, reminiscing with Michael about his marriage to Ruth and reflecting on my own fulfilling marriage with my dear wife Sheryl, helps me get over my grief of the loss of my dear friend. I am forever grateful to Michael & Ruth’s example.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.