When I first saw Judy, something happened in my heart. Her humor and joy in life shone through loud and clear, and spoke to a hole that was in my life – one I didn’t even realize was that big, until I saw that beautiful young woman so many years ago.
Then I actually met her and realized that what I thought was a hole was really a canyon. Every part of me wanted to be with her more and more. Eventually, I realized I not only wanted her in my life but also needed her in my life. And she realized she needed me as well. That was good news to me.
Now we have been married more than 43 years, and we have both learned many things about our love as a couple.
Young couples can undoubtedly love each other with an authentic love. But it is the testing of that love over time that helps it grow even deeper and stronger. Judy and I have had our love tested many times. Sure there are times when the testing pushes us further apart for periods of time, but in the long run it brings us back together with a deeper love than before.
When we lost our son Kyle in a tragic drowning accident in 1979, Judy and I faced the hardest year of our marriage. She and I needed to grieve so differently. Judy needed to process her grief out loud. I needed to be quiet and mentally process the whole experience. My quietness made Judy feel that I didn’t care. Her talking about it at every turn made me want to get away and find a place in solitude to think, ponder and make some of the biggest faith decisions of my life.
After a while, I realized Judy wasn’t trying to hurt me by talking constantly about her feelings. She was just processing her grief. And Judy realized that I wasn’t trying to ignore and run from her as much as I was just trying to process grief my own way. It was during this intense time of grieving that we learned more about each other than we had ever learned. We were so different, but we filled up what was missing in each other as well.
When our daughter developed a rare blood disease a few years later, we were able to handle it together so much better, as a couple who had drastic differences but whose love helped us appreciate and value each other as well.
When Judy’s mom, June, came to live with us for a little more than two years, our love grew once again as we moved into uncharted territory. June has Alzheimer’s. We knew very little about the disease at the time, but we had learned how to process through that hard time together. I saw Judy’s tender love and compassion for her mom, even though her mom could not understand or value her love much at the time. Watching Judy with her mom made my heart grow deeper in love with her.
We spent the last month with my mom lying in the hospital and then hospice as she suffered from congestive heart failure. She was challenged in taking each breath, her Alzheimer’s had progressed severely over the last decade, and we didn’t know what the outcome would be. Judy and I kept tag teaming being at the hospital with her. We hardly even saw each other, and when we did we were talking through end of life issues and alternatives. It wasn’t a very romantic Valentine’s season.
But as I watched Judy tenderly care for a mother that was not her own, my heart grew even closer to her. She did all this because of her love for me, which makes me love her even more. That girl I saw some 45 years ago has given me so much more than I could have ever known.
It saddens me when I see couples facing hard times and giving up, somehow thinking changing partners will solve their problems. That’s not how God designed life to be lived. It is through the hard times that love grows even deeper and stronger than you could possibly imagine. And that is the kind of love He desires for couples.