July 26 celebrated 55 years since our 1956 wedding day. I chose to work the morning before our early evening wedding ceremony. Times were hard financially for the young pastor of a new church. We promised to love each other forever and to put the other first.
A dear friend recently mentioned us when she wrote in her column: “I myself have seen very few happy marriages in my lifetime. Those that I have seen (such as the marriage of friends of mine who are missionaries to Arabs living in Australia) have been the result of both husband and wife choosing to put the other person’s happiness first!”
Many times daily gratitude wells up in my heart and I blurt out to my wonderful Kathleen, “I love you” or “I’m so thankful for you.” The years have cemented those promises we made that evening before God and witnesses. Our relationship is so precious and comforting!
In our sunset years we are growing more dependent on each other and the Lord. Kathleen has been driving me everywhere now for 21 years and helping me with sight and hearing limitations. The list is endless: reading letters, magazines, labels, taking the phone to understand and take down details, addresses or names. All these things exhibit her devotion to her husband. Now she is becoming very dependent on the memory of her devoted husband: to accompany her to appointments, to direct her in driving to many destinations, and to remember many little details in public and in the home.
We want to be trusting of our wonderful Lord in our limitations. We want to be loving and patient with each other’s frustrations and fears as taken-for-granted abilities slowly fade. Before the wedding I wrote an idealistic piece: “You’re what I want. I want you to always be sweet and understanding, never irritable and gripey. You are just wonderful!”
The discovery of some misplaced old love letters a week ago sprinkled some spice on our anniversary celebration with our grandchildren. In the letters I told Kathleen that she was the most genuine and sweetest girl I had ever met. I loved the way we could talk about the Bible and spiritual things. I wrote: “I have 1 plate, a knife, spoon and fork and only 1 cooking utensil. But I’ll make out. It doesn’t take much equipment to make vegetable soup. One can costs 27 cents; one can makes 2 meals (14 cents each). The theme for our marriage should be, ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall not eat!’”
I never called her by phone which was a party line in her community: “I’d like to call you but there are 10,000 ears on that line, and I am broke anyway!” We courted every Thursday evening in her parents’ living room and she cooked me a big steak. Thursday was a wonderful diversion from the soup and baked beans! I wrote: “Let’s pray that the Lord will send us a cow, a fat one. I wish I knew some butchers personally. Somebody who would cut up this cow for us.” An interesting sidelight: “The bottom fell out at Sunday School this morning. The attendance was 45 and the offering was $23. I don’t know where the people were!”
Shortly before our wedding I wrote: “I’m making a bed with a headboard that will have a place for a radio and a few books. Then we’ll put drawers on the bottom sides of the bed. It may not look like a million dollars but it ought to work like a charm. Whatever that is? I’m going to fix a place under the stairs where the owners park their 2 cars, next to our bathroom to hang some of our clothes (it was a one room apartment above an unheated garage). Everything won’t be too stylish but I hope you’ll like it. I really do. I have so little to offer you but I hope you’ll be happy with it.”
Again: “I fear I have little to offer you in life being a preacher and having little money. So I hope you realize what you’re getting into. I have nothing to offer but hard work and bushels of love. Very true, you can’t eat it for dinner, though it would make dinner more pleasant if you had some (dinner). There are lots of heartaches and disappointments along with the blessings. I’ve never had to go hungry, or if I did it was because of something foolish-like that car (bought on payments). But we live and learn. Mostly learn. So we’ll suffer together. But I’ll enjoy it much more with you around, sweetheart. That is, if you’ll let me kiss you. I think it is by far the best that we have decided to wait for kissing each other until marriage.”
We were so happy then. We’re no less now. Many things have changed during these 55 years. We’ve collected stacks and stacks of blessings to share and remember together for time and eternity. “Happy anniversary, Kathleen, you’ve been the best and more than I ever dreamed of!” God is good and all thanks to Him for an exceedingly happy marriage!
The grandchildren loved the evening and the entertainment of the love letters. We wish all of you a happy home!
Richard and Kathleen Hester