Russ and I celebrated 32 years of marriage last Thursday with as many tears as joy.
We agree this was the hardest year of our marriage.
June 9, 1984, when we were twenty years old, we made vows before God, our families, and friends. We loved Jesus. We loved each other. We were young and honestly, could never have dreamed what the years were going to bring.
By the grace and kindness of God, we’ve clung to those vows through everything.
The strain of parenting kids from “hard places” could have done us in, but we held on to Jesus, and for the most part, we held on to each other.
It was lonely, and terrifying at times, and we were pretty sure nobody understood what we were going through. There were nights when we couldn’t sleep as we prayed, cried, and talked through the hours.
Russ was a rock for me over and over again.
When we felt judged and misunderstood, we had each other. When we were isolated and alone, prisoners in our own home, it wasn’t solitary confinement – we shared a cell.
We sat together through hours of therapy appointments, wept after visiting the pediatric inpatient psychiatric unit, and drove long hours over the mountains for family weekends at residential treatment.
There were times when tension was high and we weren’t each other’s best supporters, but time after time, we turned toward each other and not away.
Then on an icy highway in a tangle of metal, crushing pain, and the loudest shattering sound you can imagine, our lives changed forever.
Our initial instinct was to do what we’ve done in every other crisis of our lives, wrap around each other. Hold on. Protect one another and walk together every step of the way.
And we did – until we didn’t.
Months passed, the shock wore off, and grief set in.
While we wanted to grieve together – grief has its own rhythm and it’s not the same for everyone, not even husbands and wives who love each other.
Russ went back to work (far too soon – we agree). I stayed home.
Russ talked to friends and even strangers. I was often silent.
Russ wanted to be with people. I couldn’t bear to be in public.
Russ wanted to visit Kalkidan’s burial site. It terrified me to go there – and it’s on our property.
Russ wanted to choose a statue for her garden. I couldn’t think about it because nothing seemed right.
The easy flow of our marriage disappeared in this complex maze of loss, pain, and grief.
A friend who lost his young daughter to cancer told us that 85% of couples who lose a child end up divorcing.
Call me crazy, but when I heard the first statistic I felt comforted. I figured it means we’re in the midst of something unbelievably hard and the fact that we are surviving means we’re rising above the odds.
So here we are, a little over thirty-two years from the day we promised our lives to one another. I love Russ more than I can say. We’ve been together since we were 17 and we’ve weathered so many challenges. Life is hard and through it all, our faith in Jesus, love for one another, the vows we made and the rings we wear keep us clinging to one another.
None of that changes the fact that this has been a very hard year. I can’t imagine where we would be without the Lord carrying us through.
We will beat the odds (if there is any truth to them), we’ll still be married decades from now.
Will it be easy? I don’t think so, at least not for the next year or two.
We’re pressing on, because that’s what marriage is about – for better and worse. We’re hoping next year brings us a whole lot more “better.”
Something sweet happened the evening of our anniversary – a tenderness came over our hearts and by God’s grace we’re holding on to it. Maybe the worst is behind us and we’re coming out of the darkness and into a lighter place.
All I know, is that we are breathing a little more deeply and leaning in a lot more, resting on one another.
Friend, if you’re in a season of hard – we’re with you.
Hold on and remember:
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death us do part.
Lord, give all of us strength, joy, and have mercy. We love you. We trust you. We live and breathe in you.
This is not an easy journey, friend, but there is hope.
with courage and love,