Slumped in his pity chair, Randy Denny pushed away the tray of freshly baked Valentine cookies and choked back a tear. All he could think about was today marked his first anniversary as an orphan. He may be 45, but it was still overwhelming to loose both your parents, almost at once. It just didn’t seem fair.
From the day they met, his parents, Frank Denny and Helen Phillips, were locked together. Their story began in 1930 when they shared a desk in first grade. At lunch, over bologna sandwiches, they became best friends. In third grade they started pitching baseballs. Then one afternoon in the dugout they took off their mitts and locked pinkies, sealing their friendship---forever.
Their lockers were side-by-side in junior high school and they continued to look after each other, as they got used to changing classes. It was there they became more than just best friends.
“What happened to my freckled-faced, pigtailed short-stop over the summer?” Frank asked one day as Helen sauntered up to him at their lockers. She had unbraided her pigtails and now sported long auburn locks that bounced when she laughed. And she wasn’t tossing balls at him, anymore. Instead her infectious giggling was shooting love arrows straight to his adolescent heart.
In high school Frank gave Helen his football jersey as she promised to be his steady. They locked hearts (and not just pinkies) in the spring of 1940. They sat next to each other in Sunday school and accepted Christ together at summer Bible camp. And, they sang, side-by-side, in the youth choir.
Following graduation, Frank went off to war. It was the only time they’d been separated since they’d met. But the engagement ring on her finger reminded Helen of his love as she prayed for his safe return.
After the war, Frank took over his dad’s Lock ‘n Key business at Christmas, and it wasn’t long before Helen walked down the aisle at the Maryville Baptist Church, becoming Mrs. Frank Denny on Valentine’s Day, 1946.
They made locks, keys and babies, setting up housekeeping in West Texas. Churning out keys and locks, they never forgot the key that unlocked the secret for a successful marriage---putting Jesus Christ first in everything they did.
Four sons blessed them with ten grandchildren. Yes, they enjoyed a charmed life, daily praying together, making Christ the key to their happy home.
Shortly after Frank retired he started getting lost and confused. A trip to the doctor confirmed his sons’ worst fear---Their dad had Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, Helen’s crippling arthritis was growing so unmanageable she had to use a wheelchair to get around.
Yet, somehow they managed to still care for each other. She was the brains, he, the legs, as he pushed her wheelchair wherever she directed. They were a team, as always.
Of course, Randy and his brothers were concerned about their aging parents. They felt Dad had to be in a nursing home. But when they suggested putting him in a home and moving her in with Randy, Helen held her ground. “We’re locked together. No one can separate us!” She exclaimed, pounding her gnarly fist against her wheelchair.
Then one day, after Frank almost burned the house down, Randy lovingly confronted them, insisting,”You know you can’t stay here any longer.” He packed their suitcases and drove them to a Christian nursing home where they shared the same room.
But they weren’t there for even a week before Frank suffered a massive stroke and was given less than a month to live. He died five days later.
Helen was so devastated she couldn’t even attend his funeral. She was fast deteriorating and was admitted to the hospital with renal failure the day after his funeral. Her kidneys were shutting down and she, too, was dying.
She died on Valentine’s Day, exactly one week after Frank went home to be with Jesus. Now they were both home---together again, forever locked together in Jesus’ arms, on their 59th wedding anniversary.
Pondering over his parents’ marriage, Randy arose from his pity chair, vowing to put Christ first in his own marriage.
“Let’s start praying together,” he said, walking up to his beautiful wife, locking his hands in hers.
“That’s even a more precious gift than your Valentine roses,” she said, bowing her head.
Yes, Randy Denny and his brothers were orphans, but they were blessed ones.
(Based on a true story)
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