"For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh..." Matthew 19:5 (KJV)
Almost 24 years ago, I stood in the solemn atmosphere of a church, in the presence of Almighty God and before our parents, family, and friends, and I repeated these words after Pastor David Markel:
"I, Cheryl, take thee, Kevin, to be my lawful wedded Husband,
to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better for worse,
for richer for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love, cherish, and to obey ,
till death us do part."
When the preacher asked "Do you, Cheryl, take Kevin?......."
I looked up into the eyes of my beloved, and with all of the loyalty, dedication, and determination my heart could muster,
I made a promise to him in front of God, and
I said, "I do."
And I meant it.
All these years later, should I run into Pastor Markel, and should he ask me the same question, without a moment to wonder or reconsider, without a second's hesitation,
I would answer, "I still do."
We were so young that day. So full of hope and zest for the future. Ready to take on any challenge.
Eager to conquer any obstacle.
By God's grace, we have.
And there have been many.
As I look back, I remember those times of adversity. And as I re-visit them, I identify one common thread. They made us stronger...as a couple. They tightened our bond. They drew us to each other's arms.
They fortified our promise...our vows....to each other.
It was in those moments of "for worse, instead of better", of "poorer, instead of richer", of "sickness, instead of health", that we held on tight to each other, and we stood our ground. We never backed down.
Giving up was never an option.
We were on a fast-moving train, travelling through the night, in a hurry to get from West Palm Beach, FL to Richmond, VA, where we would change to a train that would carry us to Alderson, WV.
The seats were so uncomfortable and would only barely recline. We had been awake for hours. Even if we had been at home in our comfortable bed, I don't think he would have slept.
I looked over at him...watched him...when he wasn't looking.
It looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
I don't know how a human heart could hold any more pity than I felt for him at that moment.
Pity is such a huge part of love.
Something deep within me, went out to him. I longed to ease the trouble from his mind. Steal the pain from his heart. Make everything right in his world.
I wanted to tell him that his Mother would be okay. That her cancer would be healed. That she would live for a long time. That we would get there in plenty of time. That he could look forward to many happy moments with her.
How could I do that? There were no guarantees. I could make no such promise to him. I couldn't keep it. I couldn't make any of those things happen....as much as the love in me wanted to. The only thing I had to offer him was "to have, and to hold".
That....I could do.
My arms. My heart. My shoulder. These were all I could give. Freely. Wholeheartedly. Completely.
I watched him, and I cried. I silently prayed for him. A prayer that was wrenched from the deepest recesses of my soul, but never put into audible words. I prayed for Mom Smith. I loved her, too....dearly. She meant the world to both of us. She was so frail...so sick. I couldn't bear losing her. He surely couldn't.
I reached for him, and I held him close, and the train swayed, and we held on tight.
It was a strange night. Halloween.
The characters...riding the train with us....were eccentric.
Some of them had spent too much time in the dining car...at the bar.
One sat behind us, talking incessantly to someone sitting beside her, all the way from West Palm to Virginia. The only break she took from talking was sometime during the night as she slept. We thought she was talking to a relative or long-time friend. When we reached Virginia, we found out they had only just met that night on the train.
One had a nightmare, screaming out in the middle of the night....breaking the silence.
The only other sound, at that point, was the clicking of the wheels against the track.
One who had lingered too long at the bar, swaggered down the middle of the aisle, almost falling into our laps, as she passed. I remember she was wearing a costume necklace with flashing pumpkins that blinked through the night in the darkness.
There were other strange things happening.
Any other time, we would have laughed....found it comical and amusing. We do, now.
That was not the time.
It felt odd, unfamiliar, uncomfortable...in these surroundings.
But, his arms felt so familiar. It didn't matter.
The train rolled on through the night.
We finally made it. Alderson never looked better..or more inviting.
His sister, Lori, met us and took us to Mom.
We surprised her...she couldn't believe her eyes when we walked in.
We hadn't told her we were coming. She was lying on the couch, weak and sick.
Seeing him made her feel so much better.
Our silent prayers...our tears...touch deep in the heart of God.
God answered that prayer....prayed on the train for him...and for her.
He healed her and made her well.
He gave us more time.
That was a long time ago.
Granny & Zachary in the toy store....making memories.
God is good.