Where were you in 1938? I wasn’t born yet, but I’m told the United States was still mired in the Great Depression and World War II had not yet started.
But 95-year-old Fred Stobaugh from Peoria, Illinois does remember where he was in 1938, as if it were yesterday — at an A&W Root Beer stand meeting Lorraine, his bride to be. They fell in love and soon were married.
Earlier this year, 75 years later, Lorraine died, leaving her husband and their lifetime together behind. About six weeks later, still grieving for her, Fred heard about an online singer-songwriter contest sponsored by Green Shoe Studio, a local music business.
Well, Fred decided to enter the contest with a tribute to Lorraine, who shared his love of music. “I just sat here kind of hummin’ a little bit and it finally came to me,” he said.
What came to him was a simple but powerful song, “Oh, Sweet Lorraine.” It talked about their life together and how Fred still longed for his bride. But would “Oh, Sweet Lorraine” play in Peoria? Well, he wrote the song down, put it in a large envelope, and mailed it.
Green Shoe’s Jacob Colgan was intrigued by the simple envelope and its contents, even though it was clear “Oh, Sweet Lorraine” couldn’t win the contest because Fred didn’t record it, as the rules said. But Green Shoe Studio has a unique motto, “To change our community, one dream at a time,” so rather than throw Fred’s entry and lifelong memories away, Colgan decided to learn more.
“I started to read the lyrics,” he said, “and was so touched by the song, and without even meeting Fred we thought — we’re going to do something.”
So Green Shoe offered to provide their professional music and recording services to bring “Oh, Sweet Lorraine” to life — for free.
You can watch the “Oh, Sweet Lorraine” music video online — come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll link you to it. According to Green Shoe, there have been 5 million views so far.
There’s a real beauty in marriage that comes out in this song, and you can see it in this man’s face as he talks about spending 75 years with Lorraine. But it’s a kind of beauty seen not at the beginning of a marriage, but only at the end, when you’re able to finally say, “This was life well lived, because it was well lived together.”
I’ve been blessed to see this story told not only in this simple masterpiece, but in real life with my own grandparents. The beauty of their lifelong married love is not marred by the health struggles and other problems that come with old age; rather it is magnified as they struggle together as they have for decades.
What a great reminder that marriage isn’t all about wedding dresses or even about being young and in love. It’s about having and holding, “from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part” — just like Fred and Lorraine.
But “Oh, Sweet Lorraine” provides us another lesson. In an age when entertainment is just titillation and over-produced hype, for a studio to say that the purpose of art is to make the community a better place, as Green Shoe Studio does, is stunning. So please, watch the video. You can even buy the single to help support Fred Stobaugh.
My hat is off to Green Shoe Studio. They didn’t have to care about a bereaved man’s love for his departed wife, but they did — and we’re all the richer for it.
And now we need to ask: how do we make our communities better places? We talk repeatedly on BreakPoint about the power of cultural narratives. Well, here’s a cultural narrative, something that has captured people’s imaginations about what is true about marriage and family and love. Telling and singing similar stories is a powerful way to counter the false narratives in our culture of marital skepticism.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: October 10, 2013