In the long run.

I met a family in the Emergency Department. The patriarch of the family was in the bed. The matriarch, children, and grandchildren stood near.

I turned to the patient’s wife and said, “How many years have you been together?”

I don’t always ask. It can be a dangerous question. But in this room, with the concern she was expressing, I felt the need to give her the floor, to give her something to say with confidence.

“Sixty-six years,” she said with a quiet smile.

I started to laugh.

I don’t always do that, either. Laughter by the chaplain isn’t always understood.

“I’m laughing because Nancy and I have been married for thirty-three years. And that seems like a long time, in a good way. But we’re only halfway there.”

I stopped for a minute while everyone else smiled, too.

“But it doesn’t seem like it’s been long enough, does it?” I asked her quietly. She shook her head.

“May I pray for you all?” I said. And I did.

But I’ve thought a lot about our conversation. I meet many couples who have been married fifty years and more as I tend to the crisis situations we encounter. As we talk about the situation, the head issue or heart issue, the fall or the accident, I discover that they all believe that the marriage has been too short to end now. They still have sentences to finish for each other. They still have buttons to push, frowns to invert, meals to split at the early-bird specials. As much as they don’t want their partner to suffer, they aren’t quite ready to quit.

And so I smile with them, tear up, listen to stories, invite God to help with the peace that makes no sense.

This comes to mind because on Sunday, Nancy and I finish our first 34 years.  If we make it another 34, the odds are one or the other of us won’t be able to understand what’s going on.

Which is why, for now, I’m so deeply grateful we get to finish each other’s sentences and share a Rueben at Culvers. As I’m regularly discovering, there can be deep grace in being the older married people.


Thank you to Megin for this photo.

16 thoughts on “In the long run.

  1. Maggie Crandall

    I do chaplaincy – elderly, prisons, juvenile, hospitals ….it’s a great job to make space for God


  2. josephruizjr

    Congratulations Jon and Nancy. Carla and I are working on year 39 I get this! Have a great weekend.


  3. Marilyn Curl

    The thirty years I shared with Pat passed as quickly as the blink of an eye. Never assume that there will be another day to say, “I love you.”


  4. D Sharon Henderson

    Congratulations to two people whose individual lives are so woven together that it is a sermon for all to see. Thanks and God’s blessings for the next 34 years.


  5. Sharon Sipe

    Blessings to you and Nancy on being together for 34 years. May the next 34 be as happy for you both.


  6. Kevin May

    Jon, I seldom comment but something motivated me this morning. I can picture you having that conversation. I miss your unique perspective on life. Congratulations to you and Nancy.


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