The Last of Life For Which the First Was Made

25 Years of Marriage

Twenty-five years ago this moment I was doing my nails and fluffing up my 80s hair in preparation for my wedding.

The Back Story

Jim and I dated in high school. I was two years older, so I had to drive on all of our dates. He had a shiny new Toyota in the garage that he couldn’t drive until his 16th birthday. I looked forward to riding in it, but, alas, our relationship did not survive that long.

wedding photoYears later, I was finishing my graduate audiology program at University of Memphis and Jim was fresh out of Rhodes College (he would want me to point out that he actually graduated from Southwestern at Memphis), working here in Memphis at his first job, writing credit union software. During the Thanksgiving holiday in 1983, he made an unexpected drop-in visit to my family home in Jonesboro. We chatted for an hour or two and agreed to meet for a drink at some undetermined time. A few weeks later, in need of a break from thesis writing and preparing for comprehensive exams, I spontaneously called him to take him up on that drink. We stayed for dinner, arranged a second date, a third, a fourth … and in June of 1986, in the driveway of my family’s lake house, he proposed. We were married on November 30, 1986 in a small chapel at Christ United Methodist Church. The chapel’s capacity was 75. We invited 150 people. So even though our wedding was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the place was packed.

The Last 25 Years

These years have been filled with moments of uncontained joy, raucous laughter, inside jokes, crazy dreams and common goals. We’ve shared a chronically-messy home, countless tubes of toothpaste, 25 Christmas trees and what I estimate to be more than 20,000 meals. The peaks have been lofty, the valleys deep: the loss of our brand-new weddings rings in an armed robbery, career ups and downs, deaths of friends and family members, my diagnosis of breast cancer, unemployment and countless others that time and perspective have made less tragedy than minor setback.

When we were first married, Jim gave me a plaque with the following lines from a poem by Robert Browning.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

Most people quote the first two lines, but my favorite is, the last of life for which the first was made … This makes me think of a fine wine. For some of the finest wines, maturity brings a richer, more complex and multilayered flavor. The distinguishing tones — fruit, floral, earthy — become more noticeable even as they meld together to form a smooth, rich wine worthy of savoring.

Much like us. Rather than longing for youth, we choose to revel in the richness of these days. Of adult children who challenge and inspire as they become more friend than responsibility; of wisdom and perspective to treasure and appreciate more deeply the blessings entrusted to us. We’re fuller and richer for the struggles, the tears, the sacrifices — and for all of the moments of both the first and the last of life.

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