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“Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be…”

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I had the privilege of attending a “50th wedding anniversary” celebration this past weekend. While their Golden Anniversary was the party theme, the couple actually celebrated 51 this year, thanks to Covid intervening last year. Fifty years of wedded bliss is something you don’t see or hear about much these days, and I expect will become even more rare after my generation dies off – for reasons too numerous to discuss in this column!

I know widows or widowers sometimes shy away from anniversary invitations. The truth is that however you’ve adapted to your loss, they are a reminder of that loss. Several of us had a few lump in the throat moments, but it was heartwarming to see this couple beat the odds against dilemmas, disease, and divorce, and it was an honor to share in celebrating their lifetime commitment to each other.

I feel fortunate to have witnessed several long-term anniversary celebrations over the years. Within a few weeks of my husband and I marrying, his grandparents celebrated 60 years of married life. Ten years later, we helped host my in-laws 40th anniversary and their 50th anniversary after that. Sadly, my father-in-law died a year shy of their 60th anniversary but the example set by this Christian, rural farm and ranch family for the 28 years I knew them was my only real point of reference for what was a good, solid marriage given the dysfunction I had grown up in.

On my trip to the altar, I admit I could no more have fathomed being married that long than going to the moon, which by the way, Neil Armstrong did on my birthday the next year! My point is that it’s absolutely impossible to comprehend the future - what your children will look like, how you both will look when you get old, and the temptations, trials, and tribulations. It’s almost like our minds come with a defense mechanism that prevents us from seeing the future because we might become frightened by the challenges or the disappointments and flee down the aisle.

Interestingly, among the close friends who’ve been an important part of my life, three actually married the same year as my husband and me. Two of those couples are now celebrating 53 years together while two of us are widows, both married a little more than 40 years when our husbands died. I miss what my life might have been but I’m thankful those couples still have each other. And I’ll add that one began dating when she was only 15 years old!

Back to this weekend, the slide show created by family began with the honorees as youngsters, and included their courtship, wedding, birth of children, significant milestones – in other words, their life. Amid, the oohs, aahs, and chuckles, I doubt if I was the only one quietly wondering, “How does life go by so fast?” One minute you’re a fresh-faced kid at the altar with your whole life ahead of you, and the next minute, you have your mother’s wrinkled hands or your father’s bald head and thanking God daily that you’re above ground.

I wanted to close with something inspirational or profound about a lifetime marriage commitment but I’m not that smart or wise. However, these two quotes I found hit home with me.

The first is, “A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.” (Uh, how about month, week, or day?)

And last, “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.”

Connie Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.