There comes a moment in life when time becomes more and more precious. There is a realization that one’s end may come sooner rather than later. Relationships and adventures are like treasures, not to be taken for granted. As someone who is watching the acceleration of time and enduring the loss of special people more and more frequently, I understand the urge to snatch happiness wherever it may be found. So it was with a spirit of great joy that I attended a quite wonderful and special wedding in Galveston this past weekend.
Barbara, the bride, is my newest sister-in-law’s mother. She and I have enjoyed delightfully lighthearted conversations together and some that have been deep and spiritual. Barbara’s husband died last fall after a long illness. She was a good wife who had stood faithfully by his side in sickness and in health. By Thanksgiving she was venturing out once again, attempting to pull herself back into the land of the living, but she was still bearing the careworn visage of a longterm caretaker whose battle to save a loved one had been lost. She was worried about her future and wondering where her path might lead her next. She expressed her optimism and her faith that God would be with her but I could see that she was exhausted, stressed, and very concerned that her journey might be precarious. I worried about her and tried to imagine what it would be like to be so alone.
Of course Barbara has a beautiful family that has been with her every step of the way. They would hover over her and make certain that she was cared for quite well. She is also a long time member of Sagemont Baptist Church and the parishioners there had helped her through her darkest days and rallied around her in her as she attempted to carry on alone. She and her husband had lived in a community for seniors and there too she found comfort from others, many of whom had at one time also experienced the death of a spouse. Still, I am certain that there were times when Barbara closed the door of her home at night and rattled around from room to room feeling the emptiness. I felt for her with all of my heart.
God in His infinite wisdom sent Harry to console Barbara. He, like her, knew the sadness of loss. He had been friends with both Barbara and her deceased husband. He visited both of them often and did his part to help both of them as Barbara’s husband grew ever weaker. Harry was determined not to abandon Barbara now that she was alone. He understood how people so often gather around immediately after a death but then become busy and slowly make less and less effort to contact the bereaved. He had been in Barbara’s shoes after the death of his own beloved wife. He made a point of visiting Barbara regularly to be certain that she was doing well.
Both Barbara and Harry attended the same church and boasted the same unflinching faith in their Lord. They prayed together and when Barbara was ready they played together as well. Harry made Barbara laugh again. He treated her with great dignity and respect. Along the way he fell in love with her and she with him. He asked her to accompany him on a church pilgrimage to Israel this summer as his wife. Barbara knew that this union was meant to be and she eagerly assented.
Barbara is in her seventies and Harry is eighty three but they are two love birds as giddy as teenagers. Their wedding took place on the banks of a canal in Tiki Island on Saturday just as the evening sun began to draw lower in the sky. They stood under a canopy to exchange their vows while friends and family shared their joy. Harry had once been Jewish but is now a Christian. Nonetheless, he wanted to incorporate some of the Jewish traditions into his wedding ceremony. At the end of the vows, and readings, and prayers Harry broke a glass under the heel of his foot, signifying that the promises of that he and Barbara had made to one another are irrevocable. All of us responded with the joyful shout, “Mazel tov!”
Harry has performed magic for Barbara and she for him. Their lives have been transformed from ashes to glory. Their overwhelming happiness infected all of us at the after party where together we broke bread together and marveled at God’s abundant love for us.
There is something incredibly lovely about older couples who choose to marry at advanced ages. Their act of faith and devotion demonstrates that the joys of life need never be over. Happiness is always lurking just around the corner and all we have to do is reach out and grab our share of it. Barbara and Harry are both loving people. They will fill each other’s rooms with laughter and delight and be the glow in one another’s eyes when darkness comes. It is as though they were somehow meant to be together for all time and now their moment has finally come. At the end of their special evening someone noticed a strange cloud formation that hung over the gathering. It was in the form of a cross. It felt as though God Himself sent us a message of His approval for the union of this special and utterly delightful couple.
Both Barbara and Harry already have amazing stories that define their pasts. They are generous and strong individuals because of the joys and the suffering that they have known. Now as the sun shines upon them they begin a new chapter in a life together that promises to be as exciting as anything that they have ever before done. I wish them all the best particularly as they travel to the Holy Land. Mazel tov, Barbara and Harry! May God be with you all of the days of your lives!