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A Sign of Love


By: Michael Aun


It was a spur of the moment decision. I made my choice in an instant. The day I met Christine Marie Thiel I decided that she would one day be my wife.

Hard to believe? I actually told a coworker: “I will marry that woman one day.” My father’s construction firm was remodeling her father’s plant site, State Machinery, in West Columbia, SC.

At the time she was a Nursing student at the University of South Carolina and was working part time for her dad, Paul J. Thiel, who owned the business.

It would be two years later before I formally proposed. In fact, it was 46 years ago from this day. We were attending Midnight Mass together at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Columbia, SC.

Priests love their Midnight Mass humor. People will call the Rectory and ask: “What time is Midnight Mass this year?” Duh! The fact is it may start at Midnight but Mass actually takes place on Christmas morning.

So 46 years ago this week that I proposed to my bride-to-be. In the Catholic Church we have a custom known as “The Sign of Peace.” You turn to the people around you and offer your hand in peace and make an appropriate comment. Typically, on that day it was Merry Christmas.

I turned to Christine, embraced and kissed her and slipped a ring on her finger and asked her to marry me. It was not an expensive ring.

I had visited an old family friend, Bruce Cook, who ran Lexington Jewelers. My grandfather and grandmother actually started that business years prior and Bruce took it over when my grandfather Eli Mack, Sr. died.

Bruce knew I could not afford much so he gave me a deal on the ring. I guess he considered me to be “family.” He certainly was family to me.

I remember the events of that night like they happened this very day. We embraced during the Sign of Peace, kissed and she said yes. It was the happiest moment of my life.

Surrounded by our two families, almost everyone seemed so happy for us… everyone except my in-laws-to-be.

As Mass concluded, we headed for Christine’s house to celebrate our engagement. Turns out, for my future in-laws… not so much. “We are very disappointed in both of you,” they said in unison. That was the shortest motivational speech I ever heard in my life. They added “It will never work.”

With those words of encouragement and profound wisdom, we launched a life together that has sustained the better part of five decades. In retrospect, perhaps those brief words were the very best thing that could happen to us.

Christine and I made a conscious decision that day… regardless of the challenges in our lives, we would always make it work. For me, the reality of our love was even better than the dream. That is called desperately in love.

How do you know when you are hopelessly in love with someone? It’s really easy. Christine was and is more concerned with my happiness than she is her own. But then she is that way with everyone.

I thought she was perfect so I fell in love with her. When I learned she was imperfect, I came to love her even more. I did not get married so I could have someone the live with. I got married because of someone I could not live without. So, in my ordinary relationship with a special woman, I found my fairy tale.

And it all got started at Midnight Mass over the Sign of Peace. More importantly, it was a sign of love.

Michael Aun, CSP®, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® is the Professor of Continuing Education for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA-Central Florida) and also serves on their Board of Directors.