Sometimes, love is totally unexpected
As she approached her fourth year of being a widow, Marion’s son Jon said, "Mom, you should attend singles meetings. Go somewhere. How will you ever meet anyone?"
The very idea was appalling. Marion was still in love. Of course, she knew her marriage vows had been “’til death do us part.” But the prospect of caring about someone other than her husband was horrifying.
“I sat at the old oak kitchen table with Jon as he devoured a sandwich,” remembers Marion Bond West, writing in Guideposts. "I can't, Jon. I just can't take a casserole and go to a singles meeting. I didn't like boy/girl parties when I was thirteen. I still don't like them. God's going to have to send someone to me."
"That's crazy!” he retorted. “Do you really think you can just sit here day after day and someone will knock on your door and say, 'Hello. I'm your Christian husband-to-be, sent by God’?"
But just like a character in the movie THE SONG, she wasn’t looking for love. In the film, songwriter/singer Jed King wasn’t either when he booked a gig at an obscure wine festival. What happened there was not what he expected. He met the love of his life.
Nor was Marion ready for romance. She had been exchanging letters with Gene Acuff, a professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University. He lived on a small farm with cattle. He was also a minister.
“Pretty soon the professor/minister/farmer and I were writing almost every day,” remembers Marion. “Our letters weren't love letters exactly, but there always seemed to be something between the lines, and I easily understood the unwritten messages.”
Sometimes he enclosed a blank sheet of paper without explanation.
"What's the blank paper?" she finally wrote.
His answer was immediate: "Things I want to say to you that you aren't yet ready to hear."
When he said that he wanted to come see her, she retorted, "What do you want to see? Where do you want to go?"
"I just want to see you. No parties, no big plans,” he responded. “I want to walk with you, talk and laugh. I want to sit in a porch swing with you and I'd like to go somewhere under a tin roof and listen to the rain with you."
Like Jed in THE SONG, she found herself falling in love. In the movie, the musician falls for a vineyard owner’s daughter, Rose.
In real life, Marion remembers how, “I carefully told myself this wasn't serious. We didn't really know each other. We'd just get acquainted, have some good conversation and good food, and relate our experiences of grief and loss. His loss was much too recent for us to be serious.”
Gene had become a widower after 25 years of marriage. But on Marion’s birthday, he sent her a dozen red roses – and more.
“There were two letters.” And photos. “I was late for an appointment and it was terribly hot,” she remembers, “so I sat in my car with the air conditioning going full blast and read the letters. Just as I opened the pictures, God seemed to say, ‘Put the tape lying on the seat in the tape deck.’
“I glanced on the seat. Yes, there lay a tape. Several days earlier, all my Christian tapes had been stolen. The police returned them a few days later and by mistake included a country-and-western tape, which I'd meant to give back.
“I had this funny feeling that something big was about to happen. Playing this tape seemed absolutely crazy, but this whole adventure with Gene Acuff was crazy, so I put the tape in. Jim Reeves began to sing incredibly sweet songs about love.
“Tears blurred my vision,” she remembers in her Guidepost account, “and I whispered aloud over my pounding heart, ‘God, you can't possibly be speaking to me!’”
She held the photographs. She looked intently at Gene's smiling face and then at his dog – which was smiling too! Gene wrote, "If I could take you out on your birthday, I'd pick you up in my old '41 Chevy, and we'd go to a 1950s movie and eat popcorn and drink Cokes from the little bottles, and of course we'd eat Milk Duds at the movies."
"Milk Duds," Marion screamed over the music, her heart melting like hot butter. “No one knew of my passion for Milk Duds. How could Gene Acuff know? Jim Reeves was singing ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?’ I was humming along and trying not to cry.”
In THE SONG, an incredible melody touches Jed and Rose, too. He pens a love song to her, records it – and it becomes a breakout hit, propelling him into instant fame. But he’s not ready.
Neither was Marion. “That night Gene phoned,” she recalls, “and as we were about to hang up, he said for the first time, ‘I love you, Marion.’
"Thank you, 'bye," she answered curtly and hung up. He said the same thing two nights later.
“This time I hid under my pillow after hanging up and said, ‘Oh, God, I don't know how to handle this.’”
In the film, Jed doesn’t know how to handle his nationwide celebrity.
In real life, Marion was stunned when Gene asked, "Could you marry me?"
“I checked my calendar and said yes,” she writes.
So, what happens in the film? The incredible tale of Jed and Rose’s life-changing romance comes to theaters nationwide September 26, released by City on a Hill Productions and Samuel Goldwyn Films.