Twenty years ago Dana and I stood at the altar of my grandparent’s white steepled church in York Village, Maine, and pledged to spend the rest of our lives together. We were so young, two naively optimistic twenty-one year-olds sure that life would grant our deepest dreams as we set out together.
The following years have brought many joys and disappointments — a wealth of beautiful children; working and living in Maine’s smallest city, where we bought our first home; the adoption and loss of our beloved daughter Ruth; the chance to travel not once but three times bringing wheelchairs to others with disabilities in Uganda; and through all the ups and downs holding on to our commitment to love and cherish one another.
To celebrate these two decades, we returned to the site of our first date, Nubble Light, just a few miles up the coast from where we later exchanged vows. That sun dappled spring day, we were both seventeen and in our senior year’s of high school. It was the first date I’d ever been on, and we shared it with friends. I’ll never forget the moment, when walking along the jagged rocks, Dana reached up and offered me his hand. He hasn’t let go since.
I couldn’t have given my heart to a safer man. No matter what obstacles we have faced — job losses, costly house repairs, broken cars and dreams — Dana has never once threatened to walk away. He just keeps steadily walking forward, my hand in his, sometimes pulling me along.Rather than having a large wedding, we invited our closest friends and family to celebrate at a lovely old inn across from the York Harbor Beach. Returning there all these years later was like walking back in time. So little hand changed except for the stunning new park across the street and the fact that we were so many years older, carrying our youngest child, 11-month-old Ezra, in our arms. He appreciated the park a lot more than the romantic dinner.
In the early years of our marriage, Dana dutifully looked up the traditional anniversary gift, presenting it with humor and pride. All these years later, I can’t remember a single one. But I’ll always remember the gift he gave me for our 20th — a flowered pottery sugar bowl to match one shattered many years before.
“Does this mean the first twenty years of marriage are for breaking things?” I asked, recounting many such dropped dishes. “And the next twenty are for restoring them?”
“No,” he said. “It’s because the next twenty will be sweeter than the first.”
So much is so easily broken — not just pottery bowls but youthful vows and fragilely beating hearts. This June I’m thankful for second and third and one-millionth chances, for each new day to restore the brokenness as we continue walking hand in hand.
“Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it; If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised,” Song of Songs 8:7.