(Listen to the audio version of this article here.)
The bunny that lives under our deck is mowing our lawn, one blade of grass at a time. A misshaped “V” of geese just flew overhead, so close I could hear the whir of their wings. A cool breeze is playing with the wind chimes, and I’m wrapped in a fuzzy, hand-knitted shawl. We live in a mountainous region. Even though there’s a feeling of autumn in the air, I am not fooled. It will be summer again and then fall, and summer again before it officially settles into fall, after which the next day will be winter.
One Year Into Our Remarriage
I love the change of seasons. My husband, Dan, and I are shifting from the season of our first year of marriage into our second. Still newlyweds, living out our later-in-life love story.
On our anniversary, we were moving back into our refurbished home, our kids and grandkids were visiting from out of town, and Dan was recovering from prostate cancer surgery. So we opted out of getting away to some romantic spot to celebrate one year of marriage.
But we certainly haven’t opted out of celebrating and speaking gratitude, every day, amazed at all we’ve been given: each other and each other’s stories and kids and grands and friends and traditions and home furnishings—his Mission-style furniture, her eclectic repurposed items—that blend together into one big, imperfect, joyful, messy, beautiful life. We’ve been given a second chance at love after losing our first spouses to cancer.
In our unpacking, Dan and I came across a shoebox of wedding cards. We took the time to read through them again and remembered these people who cheered us on. So many of our friends and family had written similar words: “We’re so happy you found each other.”
How I Found Love Later in Life
I don’t think I found Dan. I wasn’t looking. God found Dan for me by arranging an interview. Dan was one of two men who designed and built a shower truck so the homeless in our community could have hot showers, and I wanted to tell this story. God knew a date wouldn’t have worked because Dan was still wrapped in his sorrow over the loss of his wife, and I was through dating—having exited that crazy roller coaster ride determined to never board again, thank you.
He and I talked long after the interview. There was zero pressure to become romantically entangled. Just two people with similar cancer caregiving experiences, with similar losses and grief, hiking beneath impossibly tall trees, snowshoeing in soft powder, perching high on the sides of mountains, unwrapping sandwiches, pouring steaming mugs of Chai latte, and crunching on apples.
And all the while talking. Baring our souls to each other. Sharing how we managed sorrow. Being open and vulnerable. Giving each other glimpses into our hearts without any pressure of this becoming more than it was: a much-appreciated friendship.
Somewhere along the trails—in between strapping on snowshoes and the Chai and the conversations—our friendship slipped effortlessly into a deeper connection. He asked me to become his bride while we were standing just a few feet from the Metolius River that flows out of a spring at the base of a mountain. We got married within sound of that same clear and cold river. And now we’re one year into an unexpected, later-in-life love and marriage.
There are so many things I never want to take for granted about this man, so many things that were a delightful surprise. He wakes me up every morning with a steaming mug of tea, all cinnamon-y with flavor. He gives me space to write for hours when I need hours to write. He makes me laugh out loud and takes me on adventures—across town, across the nearby Cascade Mountains, across the country.
In her book, Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist wrote about how our marriages could be numbered with the great ones “if you work hard and forgive often and get over yourself and your selfishness over and over again. It could be one of the stories people tell, when they want to believe in love’s power and life’s richness.”
Marriage can be a powerful thing. As Dan and I joined our two very different lives and very different ways of doing things, as we learned to abandon our own agendas and come to an agreement on how to grandparent, and how to manage our funds, where to go on vacation, what we wanted to plant in the new landscaping, and how to train the puppy (not that we have a puppy, hint, hint, Dan)—this learned compromise and united front and consideration of each other speaks loudly of the power of love.
“Make your love story one worth telling,” wrote Niequist. “Make it one worth living, every day, as long as you both shall live.”
I think we’re making our later-in-life love story one worth telling and living by speaking gratitude regularly, keeping Friday date night, and opening our hearts and home to each other’s family and friends. By keeping Christ centered in our relationship. By continuing the things we did as we were inadvertently falling in love along the Cascade trails—paying attention and having the conversations and listening and keeping our hearts vulnerably open to each other. As long as we both shall live.
If you’d also like your love story to be one worth telling, but you feel like your husband isn’t giving his best, watch this…