It was a clear, crisp day in Springfield, Ohio. The date was October 13, 1984. I was 19 years old, and Steven was 21. At 2:30 that afternoon, we were married in the church I grew up in, and the reception was just a few steps away in the fellowship hall.
There were lots of pastel mints, triangular-cut chicken and ham sandwiches on white bread, and assorted nuts to munch on. The wedding drink of the moment was Hawaiian Punch, rainbow sherbet, and Sprite swirled together in a fake crystal bowl. And Steven and I were as wide-eyed as the Precious Moments figurines that sat on top of our wedding cake which, of course, had pink roses cascading down the sides -it was the 80’s after all.
We were excited for our new “Great Adventure” as we drove our green Ford Pinto toward a Tennessee sunset, ready to “Dive” into our new life down South. (See what I did there?) We were just two kids with $50 in our pockets, hopeful that our love would be enough for the road ahead.
And so, today, 35 years later, we celebrate our anniversary. We like to call it our “Got You on My Mind” day. And I can tell you with absolute resolve that we have most certainly lived on some love! While our gas tank was oftentimes empty (notice that it is a singular car, not multiple!), our tummies stayed mostly full as we were living on love…supplemented with a little Hamburger Helper!
We’ve welcomed six children, three spouses, and six grandchildren into our family. We’ve attended hundreds of birthday parties; school programs; and enough baseball, basketball, softball, and soccer games to last a lifetime. The gymnastics meets, dance recitals, and cheer competitions have filled our closets with ribbons and medals. We’ve watched our boys play from the living room in our home to “Battle of the Bands” in grade-school, and now, they’ve made a career of playing in music venues all over the country. Steven and I have yelled “Sic ’em Bears” with Emily, and we now scream “Roll Tide” with Shaoey. We currently hold 10 high school diplomas, two college degrees, one master’s degree, and one honorary doctorate in our family.
In our 35 years together, we’ve accumulated GRAMMYs, DOVEs, and an American Music Award to fill our shelves, and framed gold and platinum records hang on several walls in our home. When I think about the songs represented by these awards and records, it’s as if the lyrics are frozen in time, marked by the memories of our years spent together. While we share those memories sacredly between us, it’s amazing to know that we also get to share them with those of you who are divin’ in, waking the neighbors, and dancing with their own Cinderellas.
In this whirlwind of time, we’ve experienced great joy and unspeakable loss. I’ll say it until my last breath: No human was ever created to bury a child. The separation and void of not hearing Maria’s voice and watching her giggle is so unnatural. What’s also unnatural is watching your loved ones have to navigate a new map toward eternity as well—one that takes pain and anger into account and reroutes the journey for us all to SEE Maria again. Our grief has been messy, yet that mess has bound us together and has us all on the same side, fighting for one another in our victories and losses.
It’s been 35 years of laughter, sorrow, working, playing, dying, and living. One of Steven’s most well-known songs called “I Will Be Here” was written for me in 1988. We had been married for nearly five years when he presented me with this meaningful gift. It was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. When I first heard the lyrics “When the mirror tells us we’re older, I will hold you, and I will be here,” I thought, That day is so far away. Now that I think about it, it should have also included, “When the scale tells us we’re heavier, and I cannot hold you, I will be here!” Ha!
There’s so much I wished I hadn’t said or done in the past 35 years with my hubby, but the one thing we have done is live. Our fearless leader has guided us into the glorious unknown and has taught us to move forward with open hands and a humble willingness to follow his lead. He has led us to be kind and benevolent all the while my man has been steering all of us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
With all that said, after reflecting on so many thoughts and memories, I want to say “Happiest of Anniversaries” to my husband of 35 years. If I could bottle up these years, I’m not sure I would leave out anything because all of it makes us who we are today.
Steven, all of us are better because of how you have loved our family and me for 35 years. Today, we sat across from each other working in our breakfast chairs, drinking coffee, and planning out the next 35 years. OK, maybe not exactly—maybe just the next cheer clinic and college visit, but you gotta start somewhere. The year 2054 is right around the corner, so let’s just keep living! It’s about time for another song.