Look at that smiling young couple. Remember them? It was February 12, 1983. Suzie, our parish priest, had just pronounced us man and wife and we after we greeted everyone we ran to the back of Emmanuel Episcopal into the steeple close to ring the church bell. I picked you up and held you while this picture was taken. Remember how after I pulled down the rope you grabbed it and it lifted you high off your feet? We got a big laugh out of that.
Remember how Earl got so drunk that he knocked the silverware off the stand in the serving line at the reception; yet he could write such a beautiful toast to us on the back of that napkin? We kept that scribbled napkin. And Leslie did it in calligraphy. It hangs on the wall still.
We wish you opportunity and success.
We wish you understanding of yourselves and each other.
We wish you understanding that people change and you will change.
We wish you understanding of the difference between loving each other and liking each other.
Loving each other makes marriages happen.
Liking each other makes marriages work.
We wish you freedom of spirit, harmony with God's eternal plan
And, mutual respect, in what you believe and in what you do.
We wish you love and happiness - always."
Remember the hurried drive from St. Louis to Carbondale to catch the train to New Orleans, the sleeper car? the cocktails and my arriving hung over? Mardi Gras and the wonderful food, Bourbon Street, begneits at Cafe du Monde?
Take a closer look at that young couple.
Funny thing. I can't quite recognize the young man. He is growing old, and is a bit crippled by medical problems that have no solution, pains that deepen the lines in his brow. He is fatter. His hair is silver, wavy and long, down to his shoulders. He wears a beard. But if I look deeply into the young man's eyes I see that same glow of love I see in the eyes of the fellow in the mirror after I wake. That same glow I see in his eyes lights my life today when I think of the woman the young man married.
The lovely, smiling young woman I recognize. I see her every day when she comes home from work, still lovely, still in love, still glad she took a chance and married an "older man." You were 27 and I was 43.
Remember how so many people counseled us that it "wouldn't work," "couldn't last," that we "came from different religious backgrounds," you Catholic, me Protestant? Even Susie worried that we might not make it when we were doing our Pre-Cana marriage counseling.
Well, here we are. And the same 16 years still separate our ages. But nothing separates our love. I am less physically able to do thing now, things we love to do together. You know how I hate that. But we knew it would come someday, and we knew that we would learn to accept it as it comes. We knew we would adapt. And we are, although I am often stubborn and reluctant in my acceptance.
But I told you long ago that I would not go gently into old age. I am keeping that promise. I will do what I can as long as I can. We will ride our motorcycles together and enjoy exploring this beautiful world together as long as I can still get a leg over the saddle. And when I can't do that we'll get scooters!
And so I look forward, still as anxious as I was 27 years ago, to see you come in the door, to know that we will be together. I know that I love you with all my heart and soul and life. And I know that you feel the same way about me. I sometimes question how you still can, but I know that you do.
Paul wrote: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." He followed that by saying, "Love never ends."
You, my darling Sue, are the love I never thought I could have, the joy of my life I never thought I deserved. You are my heart, my soul, my breath, my life. Not "until death do us part," but forever.