What a nice gesture on the morning of Matt’s wedding day. A single red rose with an anonymous note. The message was pure and simple, but it was one which would help two people survive the test of time… especially when thirty years later the river came rushing in.
When the water started rising it seemed as if the life they built together was being washed away. In all these years Missy and Matt Dailey had survived hurricanes and other natural disasters. They witnessed other people’s homes being flooded, or completely destroyed. They’d seen others who watched the waters rise and seen their lives submerged… but it had never happened to them. Nor did they really believe it would.
Until this day.
On August 14th of this year the water started spilling into their Louisiana home and it seemed like it would never stop. When it finally did the flow and direction of their own lives was about to change. “The blessing is we only got eight inches,” says Matt. “But you can’t understand how eight inches of water will put a stress and hurt on your whole life. Our whole life got turned upside down, all because of water.”
Yet perhaps the biggest blessing for the Dailey’s was while their home was in peril, the foundation of their lives – standing on solid ground which they fought to fortify for more than thirty years – was built to withstand mother nature’s fury and this test from God.
Though it is a life together which almost never happened.
One day before her 16th birthday Missy got a call from Matt. He told her he was getting married… the next day. “I remember I was sitting on my mother’s kitchen counter when I got the call,” says Missy, “and I couldn’t breathe for a minute. I met Matt when I was 14 and he was 18… he was the first person my mom let me date. He had managed to get to me through my dad, I wouldn’t date him without my dad’s OK.”
But after a time together the two became just friends… and Matt moved on. Now he was tying the knot. Except his knot was twisted. Missy clearly remembers: “When Matt called me to tell me he was getting married he also told me, ‘I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do, I don’t know if I love her.’ I told him then don’t marry her. He said, ‘I already asked her and committed to her.’ So I said do it. What I wanted to tell him again was to call the whole thing off, but I didn’t. What I did do though was I called the flower shop and had a single red rose delivered to him the next day.
Just a few years later Matt’s marriage ended in divorce… and Missy and Matt reunited, several years later they were wed. “I don’t know how to love anybody but him”, says Missy. This April the couple will have been married for 32 years. And Missy says it’s strong, but it takes work and she likes to share her experience and advice for others about the true bonds of matrimony.
Missy says: “I always tell people don’t judge anyone else’s marriage. We all put these happy faces on life and marriage and when they’re asked how are things are I hear couples say, ‘Oh we’re great and we’re fine.’ “Every marriage is the same, I don’t care how long you’ve been married, there are times that are really great and really horrible. But I believe it is easier to fix things then go find someone else and face the same struggles again. If I meet someone who has been married longer than five years and they say they never argue with their spouse, I know they are lying. And if you’ve been married more than 25 years and didn’t think of walking out that door at some point, you are lying. You make a choice of growing together or moving apart.”
“The kids have heard us fuss and fight and yell at each other. But then the next day everything is cool and fine. It’s part of life, you’re not going to agree with someone else all the time.”
What has worked pretty well for Missy and Matt and their three children is the open road. Missy says for nearly half of their marriage Matt was on the road so much, first in construction, then in sales. “In 15 years we had never spend more than 2-or-3 days together each week,” says Missy. “Sometimes it was hard, (being alone without Matt), but it was harder for Matt then for me. The kids are grown but they and I are very close, they call me twice-a-day. They each have their call slots, morning and night. We have this really strong bond, and when they were growing up Matt missed part of that emotional bond. But it was important to him I not work a full-time job so I could be there for the kids.”
“You have to make the sacrifice for your family’s success,” says Matt. “And I knew with my level of education I would have to work harder. At the end the sacrifices were worth it, but I did miss out on some things over the years. But I tried to make it to as many of the kids events as I could, sometimes I would drive 100-miles just to be with them and to see their games or recitals, then I would turn around the same day and drive back 100-miles to one of my offices.”
“We are both independent and determined people, so this situation worked for us,” says Missy. “It got hectic and I had to be very regimented with the kids schedule. I never let them take part in more than one after-school activity at a time because then I would have to shuttle them to someone else for that person to act as their parent. And I taught my kids to finish what they started. I didn’t let them quit.”
The will to fight and to hold on worked in more ways than one. Missy says from 2007-to-2009 she and Matt spent a lot of time with each other when financial trouble hit their insurance business. We were home together and not used to it and we were on top of each other, getting in each other’s way,” says Missy. “It was the hardest time for our marriage.”
That was until the water started to rise, a once-in-a-millennium storm, the Louisiana flood that delivered a sucker punch to the heart of Baton Rouge. For the first time ever the water came right through the Dailey’s home. Having lived in a few different states during their time together, Matt and Missy had survived hurricanes and tornadoes… but this time a river ran through it.
So many affected. Missy says the entire cul-de-sac where she and Matt live was flooded, and everyone felt and are still feeling the pain. Houses completely destroyed, needing to be gutted and rebuilt. “I can see where people get to a place where they lose motivation and drive,” says Missy. “We had no walls, no floors, no running water. It wears on you, it’s like being in an abusive relationship, living this way day after day, you just get numb to it all. I’ve developed a better empathy for people in these types of situations where you get to a point you seem to not care anymore, not getting dressed, not doing makeup or hair. It can wear on you.”
It’s been the help and love from family and friends who have seen them through. Matt is a Regional Manager for USHEALTH Advisors, Missy works as a Division Leader. Both of them have story-after-story of those they work with, the extended family from the company, offering to assist.
“It’s hard,” says Missy. “When you are the ones used to giving and now you are on the receiving end. There are no words to describe the feeling, cause we’ve never been on the other side of this.”
Our own CEO, Troy McQuagge offered to let us come stay in his own house in Texas,” says Matt. “Connie Davis offered to load up all her tools and help us do the repairs. Randy Hildebrand, offered to bring furniture for us and other people who lost everything who live near us. Dan Ashfield offered to drive a fifth wheeler – a 40-foot camper – from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to my house and leave it here so we could live in it.”
“It’s been amazing,” says Missy. “Even one of our agents who lives in the area waded through waist-deep water with a golf club in his hand. I asked him why he had a golf club… he said he figured we might want to beat the hell out of some sheet rock in the house. He was right. You truly do find out who your friends are and what great people you work with. When life happens, we take care of each other.”
And taking care of others is really Missy’s mission and belief: “Life is about everybody else in your world. That’s who I am. I think if people focused on everybody, instead of self, then self takes care of its own. For me with everything we’ve been through in our marriage and the struggle of raising a family it could have been all about me. But if I take care of everybody else my needs get taken care of in the process.”
Matt echoes similar sentiments: “If you narrow it down it’s the people who love you and the people you love. They will always be there for you, regardless of whether you need them or not, or even think you do. Just doing the little things for others is what makes the real difference. It’s easy to throw away a problem, it’s hard to fight through it and do the little things that matter, but if you do you can accomplish almost anything. There is always someone to reach out and help if you are willing to allow them in your life. Never give up, never give in, never quit.”
Never quit – just ask Missy – imagine if she never sent that little gift to this special guy on his big day 35 years ago.
When the red rose was delivered to Matt on the morning of his wedding day – his marriage to someone else – there was a note attached with a simple message, an omen of a lifetime to come. The message was pure and simple: “I will always love you.”
The note was anonymous. But Matt knew who it was from and now love runs through it all.
Until next time thanks for taking the time.