Tandem means an arrangement of two—as in tandem bike wheels or tandem trailer axles, or I’ve especially been thinking about two people who work side by side to accomplish a task. Several events of the past few weeks caused me to consider the word tandem—side by side, or one following the other.
As I helped my husband David un-tarp a load of alfalfa, we took our places on opposite ends of the first tarp, 25 foot long. First, we tugged the tarp off the high load of hay, and then we folded the corners inward. Next, we flipped up the 9 foot sides and tri-folded the 25 foot length. In the final step, we rolled it up until the tarp was tightly wound into a roll, 20 inches thick and three foot long. By then, it was manageable, even though it weighed over 100 pounds. Then we went through the same process with the second tarp.
We folded the tarps during the cool dawn. Since, we’d just returned from a trip and we’d talked as we traveled the 1200 miles, we were caught up on events, stories, and nonsense talk. So, on that morning we worked in tandem with no need to speak commands about tarp folding. Together, we’ve rolled up tarps for over 30 years. We know the exact steps it takes. We know each other, and we trust that each will follow through the processes. We worked in tandem—two by two.
My dear friend Pat laid her husband Bobby to rest last week. For three and a half years of his illness, she worked side-by-side with him to see him through with as much comfort as possible. Earlier in their lives, they retired about the same time, working together to beautify their new home site with Texas native plants, annuals, and perennials. And, when illness struck, they again worked in tandem—two by two.
About six weeks ago, my sweet cousin Sandy received bad news about her health, and it became apparent that she wouldn’t survive much longer. Her husband, children, and family went to her bedside. For two weeks, Sandy’s mother—her heart knit with her daughter’s—stayed by her side until she stepped from this world. In the final days, Aunt Faye and Sandy worked in tandem—two by two.
My uncle J. E., in poor health for several months, had a long hospital stay. His wife, my aunt Joyce, broke her shoulder during that same time. After her surgery, they were laid up in different hospital beds recovering, and he phoned to tell her how much he wished they were sitting side by side in their recliners, just eating ice cream together. For years the two of them enjoyed fishing and camping. So, until he passed, they continued two by two, working in tandem, even if it was just a phone call about ice cream.
My mother and daddy celebrate 63 years of marriage next week. Although my mom is very ill, Dad still brushes her hair and sits by her bed and feeds her. He still puts lipstick on her lips. He still kisses her lips. He’s pulling most of the physical load these days, but they’ve had a tandem marriage, living, loving—side by side—two by two.
Jesus, schooled in the old written law, knew that “two are better than one.” And, he issued an invitation to team up with him, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). And, he remains the best partner of all.
Our creation took two, our arrival took two, and our life-walks and departings go better with Jesus, friends, and family alongside. The wise preacher said, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can help him up….though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Harness us up with Jesus. He remains the best friend, defender, and co-worker we’ll ever have in life and in our passing. And, schedule time to express your appreciation to those who work two-by-two, sharing your day-to-day work and joys of life.