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Setting a good example of divorce: 48 years of kindness

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Dan Cappellazzo/AP

(Read caption) Roland Davis and Lena Henderson, the Buffalo, N.Y., couple who remarried 48 years after they divorced, hold hands at the Elim Christian Fellowship Church on Aug. 4. They set an example in kindness for their children and other couples, whether they are divorced or married.

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It wasn’t that Lena Henderson remarried Roland Davis 48 years after their divorce, at age 85, but the fact that in all those intervening years neither parent ever said an unkind word about the other to their four children that really made me stop and think about how I talk about my husband.

I am guilty of muttering about my spouse in front of my kids and he has been there too. We have gone through a very rough patch over the past two years as the economy worsened and I have failed to obtain full-time employment. Too often, instead of banding together to overcome as a unit we have been reduced to bickering and muttering afterwards.

So if it’s this hard for married people to keep a civil tongue in their heads, the fact that this couple, while divorced, held the line, is impressive and something I attribute to both their own upbringing and strong church-going ethic.

Ms. Henderson and Mr. Davis who first married in 1944, as teenagers in Chattanooga, Tenn., and after having four children, divorced 20 years later. Each remarried and in time lost their later spouses, according to the Buffalo News. No news report has mentioned the cause of the divorce.

Last week they tied the knot again after he proposed over the phone and later arrived at her door with an engagement ring “pinned to my shirt so I wouldn’t lose it.”

Renita Shadwick, their youngest, said that in the intervening years, "My mother never had a harsh or contrary word to say about my dad, and my dad never had anything but loving remarks to make about my mother."

While it’s utterly remarkable and beautiful that this love story played out through divorce, remarriages, and across time, to me the deeper gift to be found is the one they gave their children by retaining the dignity, mutual respect, and true love they both demonstrated by speaking well of each other in front of their kids.

The website Lawyer.com gave this tip on co-parenting after a divorce: “Never speak negatively about your spouse in the presence of your children. Contrary to popular belief, this will not make you look like the “good one” to your family. It only serves to confuse them and children should be protected from the drama of divorce as much as possible.”

I never thought I would say this, but I’m with the lawyers on this one.

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Ms. Shadwick told NPR’s  "All Things Considered:" "I see the way that he comes along beside her and wants to help her as she walks inside a building or the way he scoots around her to open a door. I look at the way my mother smiles at him when he's talking about something. Those are the moments I pray that all children are looking at when they are looking at their parents loving one another."

Perhaps is we manage to show that respect and kindness to one another daily, even in forced and stressful situations, we need not end in divorce at all. My husband and I have talked about this story and that’s the way we’re going to go, scooting around to open each other’s doors.


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