Celebrate Life (A Letter to My Husband)
On our 53rd wedding anniversary, Chris and the boys brought over a strawberry cream cake (a surprise—not the chocolate cake we all expected) but we all enjoyed it so much. It was light with just a touch of rich real cream and sweet with the fragrance of fresh strawberries. We were also presented with a lovely bouquet of roses in the deepest reds and fragile pale pinks. These were scattered among dainty little baby breaths that looked like stars twinkling in the night. The entire arrangement was sitting in a crystal Tiffany vase. Simply stunning, they were ready to unfurl when we first got them, but when this photo was taken nine days later, they were still in full bloom with only one or two flowers beginning to fade.
Watching the flowers unfurl each day reminded me of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9: Ode to Joy, as interpreted by Henry van Dyke and Edward Hodge into the hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”.
So I write a letter to you, my husband:
Celebrate! Yes, we should celebrate—we are alive, grateful for 58 years of friendship and love, laughter and heartbreaks, flowering meadows and flashing seas, towering mountains and murmuring streams. In short, through the privilege of old age, we’ve made it through the journey of life and now enjoy the return trip on the memory train.
Remembering Our First Years
I am grateful to the Almighty for starting our life together in poverty, but following it with prosperity. I remember receiving that diamond engagement ring. You apologized that it was not set in white gold because the purchase of the ring had exhausted the entire summer savings that you had earned teaching as a graduate assistant. In the end, you could only afford gold—even though you thought that I would appreciate Platinum more. You told me it was a part of a set and you would get the wedding band in the following year because there would be more money by then.
Remember how gold prices were strictly controlled by the government then and therefore the wedding band itself was only $18? Do you remember furnishing our first apartment using $40 to purchase curtains and the materials for making our own furniture? Remember sitting on the floor around our home-made coffee table for supper and then waiting for the following month’s scholarship stipend to buy a dining table and two chrome director’s chairs? For our first dinner party, do you recall how our guests brought their own chairs to sit in as we requested? And how they left us a house warming gift—the chairs they brought! They had purchased them from a salvage company and had hand painted them black to complement our color scheme. We had to blow dry the chairs before we sat down to enjoy dinner together!
Remember how we had no bedroom, but how we had a tea room? Do you remember the tranquil happy hours of tea for two—the one weekly luxury we could afford? Oh, yes…there was one other luxury we allowed ourselves—the weekly dinner before attending the Bible study we shared with our classmates—my roommate from Yale, and your New York Medical College classmate. All it took was $3, gratuities included, for each couple to enjoy a delicious dinner at Yun Yun Café on Bayard Street, the best buy in New York’s Chinatown.
A Bundle of Joy
We were happily and busily tending to our professional careers when the news of your parents visit caused us to pause and think. They had often expressed their hope to see a (not yet present) grandchild. Remember how we had been married for so many years that even our church members wondered whether I was pregnant because of the 70s fashion style I wore? We had been as happy as could be, childless and carefree, in pursuit of career advancement. But we decided it was time to start a family before your mother’s arrival, and we decided that to be fair to the child time-wise, we could only afford to have one child. If we had known then how much a blessing our daughter is and has been to us, we would have had at least two!
Chris was an accommodating child—healthy and happy, smart and obedient. She was a sweet, caring child, independent and loving, accommodating and thinking of others. Do you remember how homeless cats followed at her heels and how we adopted so many stray cats that we lost count?
Do you remember the little anemic kitten we had to take turns carrying close to our warm bodies because she was always cold? The vet thought that she was blind, had kidney problems, and was so malnourished and dehydrated that feeding by infusion was needed. Despite spending hundreds of dollars, we lost her. It was then that I saw, for the first time, how tender your tears were for that little one we lost—as we mourned as a family.
Joy in the Journey
Remember seeing Eastern Europe before the countries on the coast of the Aegean Sea had become independent and free to adopt capitalism and commercialization? There were many times you would have preferred to relax in the luxury of five-star hotels, yet, for me, you willingly compromised so that I could experience the simple, local, honest, and authentic hospitality that I preferred. How I hope we can travel far again to deep azure blue seas and snow-capped mountains!
But, Praise God! Let’s celebrate life! Even if we can’t go back, there are still so many national parks we can enjoy together here at home.
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
On August 2017, we returned home from 3 trips (and booked passage for 3 more) just in time to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in Atlanta, during our family reunion. Just before the happy reunion, our family doctor sat us down and told us that, during the routine physical examination just a week before, she had discovered that I had an immediate life-threatening illness. I remember how you and the doctor both wept while she broke the news to me. And while I appreciated the loving concern from both you, I felt, deep inside, a great calm and peace—the kind which could only have come from God.
I trusted then (and still do), that God would give me what is good for me—be it to live or to depart. I felt peaceful and hopeful. You never discouraged my unwavering faith although I know that often you were stressed and worried and devastated. Your smiling face was the sunshine on my cloudy days. I decided then that if I could recover enough strength to handle the task of brewing tea, I would be the smiling face that presented you with your morning tea while you were still comfortably reading the news in bed.
I am grateful that when I suffered a subsequent bout of illness and became weak and difficult and demanding of you, you still insisted that I should receive loving care from you at home even though I felt that I should be checked into an assisted living facility so as to not be a burden. How blessed we are to have a devoted and loving daughter who gave us her healthy arms when I was feeble, old and weak! God has been gracious to us and answered prayers from relatives and friends, and friends of friends, all over our land and in Canada, and now I am once again recovered. I am alive and grateful—recovery progresses as God has planned—and you now enjoy the fresh brewed tea I deliver to you each morning with a smile. Thank you, my love, for being there for me in sickness and in health.
Rejoice! Celebrate Life!
Praise God! Let’s celebrate life! Let’s look forward to growing old together, to watching our grandsons grow, and to seeing their mother rewarded for her love and devotion to their well-being.
God is good. God is gracious. Therefore, life is good! Let’s celebrate life!