Fifty years ago today, when Richard Nixon was President, gas was going for $0.31 a gallon and a pack of Marlboros was just thirty-five cents, I made the best decision of my life and got married. My wife and I exchanged vows at the altar at St. Richard’s, where the amazing young woman who 13 months before said “I will” actually said “I do.” That rainy Saturday morning standing in front of my cousin who officiated the Nuptial Mass, the Catholic Church and the State of Nebraska officially pronounced us as husband and wife. We turned around to face the romance and reality of our new world, two people joined into one, and took our first steps together into the future, hand in hand, one day at a time.

It has been a journey of triumphs and tragedies, just because life is that way. Our experiences have run the range of just about every card in the Hallmark store, from births to deaths and every occasion in between. Many of the family members and friends who were with us that morning have gone on ahead of us, while the decades that followed gradually added new names and faces to the family tree – three children and nine grandchildren – two generations I sincerely hope will reap a rich legacy of spiritual fruit.

When the honeymoon ends, sooner or later you come to realize that the marriage certificate is just an official piece of paper. The heart and soul of the union, however, is basically one word: selflessness. My wife is an expert at it. She more than any preacher or theology book in my entire Christian experience has shown me on a consistent basis the character qualities of God: patience, kindness, longsuffering, generosity, mercy and that uniquely divine expression of unconditional love, both on the mountaintops and in the trenches. I’ve told her that. She is too humble to see it, but I am blessed to enjoy her silent sacrificial mindset every day. It goes way beyond the thousands of meals cooked and tons of laundry. It transcends her mere mundane role as wife and mother and grandmother into actually practicing what Jesus told His disciples: you’ve seen Me serve, now you do likewise. (John Chapter 13)

I’m fully aware that I have been the beneficiary of the better half of our relationship, often giving her a cross of iron to bear while she blessed me with a lavish heart of gold. Now as the calendar pages continue to fly by, as we do our best to age gracefully I can’t imagine one day without her. I couldn’t be happier to see her gentle, smiling face every morning and to feel her presence next to me at night. I can’t help but wonder why she still cares for tired, old, difficult me.

With our mutual love of literature in mind, let me defer to a quote from Shakespeare to affirm my sentiments: “To me, fair friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I ey’d, Such seems your beauty still.” You are my best friend, the love of my life, and you’ll always be my beautiful bride. You’re the best, Judith Ann, and I love you very much so. Happy Anniversary!