In an article on this website, I told how Bertha Fagan and I met last February 15 and quickly came to see, in the words of Psalm 118:23 that “this is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our sight.”
Making plans for marriage–at some point; we’re still undecided as to when–is certainly exciting and more than a little scary. A relative said, “I admire your courage.” I thought to myself, “Courage is the right word. It takes courage to uproot your lives, sell your homes, downsize your possessions, and merge your existence with another person for the last years of your life.”
It takes faith.
There are so many issues, questions to be settled, matters to be determined before we take that step.
When a friend or two suggested Bertha and I go for premarriage counseling to make sure we are covering all the bases, we surprised them by saying, “We did that two months into the relationship.” The counselor had us take a battery of tests. When he analyzed our answers and printed out the graph, he said, “You two are so well-matched, it’s not funny.” He saw no need for any further sessions.
At this point I feel the need to say something to family members on both sides as well as to longtime friends, to remind them that while so many things are changing, some realities remain the same….
One. No one is trying to replace Margaret or Gary. The Fagans and McKeevers each had marriages lasting 52 years. You don’t just close the door on that and go on to a new chapter. Gary and Margaret will always be an integral part of who we are.
Two. Nothing that we do means Bertha loves Gary Fagan or I love Margaret McKeever any less. Bertha and I refer to each other, not as “the love of my life,” which would seem insulting to these who were our life-partners for over half a century, but as “the love of the rest of my life.”
Three. I have promised that I will always honor Gary Fagan and have nothing but deep appreciation for him. After all, I knew him before I ever met Bertha. He and I were friends, although not of the close-buddy variety. We appreciated each other, and nothing has happened to change that.
Four. Friends who have remarried after long marriages to spouses now deceased say it’s natural to mention these loved ones in conversations. Some have photos on display in the home. Bertha and I will find how this works best for us. But there will be no jealousy or envy or small-mindedness. From the first, I have told her I appreciate Gary “for leaving you intact.” (Many a spouse has been left decimated by the death of their loved one. Bertha is a whole human being, functioning well, and with the healthiest outlook on life imaginable. I hope she can say something similar about me.)
Five. We are completely aware how difficult this change is for everyone. To suddenly see your mother or grandmother with another man–and not just “any” man, but a new husband!–calls for quite an adjustment in your thinking. Our children are having to deal with this. (Which is one more reason we are not rushing into the marriage.)
Six. To loved ones who might feel our marriage is disloyal to Gary or Margaret, I would say: Then, do you like the alternative? Do you prefer that we each live out our days alone? Neither of us have children who are set to receive us into their homes in our sunset years. And even if they did, moving in would be so burdensome for everyone. How much better for two suddenly-widowed people to find each other and join their lives?
Seven. From the first, we agreed on two big things: We would not live in either of our homes because of the memories, and we would never compare each other, positively or negatively, with our first spouses. This is a new thing the Lord is doing and we want to honor that.
Eight. We are picking the brains of everyone we know who remarried after being widowed on how to do this right. How did you do it? Where did you marry? How long did you wait? Do you have any regrets? How did you decide on merging your things? How did you set up your estates so you could live but that after you are gone, your children still inherit?
That’s one more reason to take our own good time. When some have urged us to “get married now; you don’t have time to waste,” we answer, “We don’t have time to get it wrong.”
Nine. We love each other, just as husbands and wives should. When friends come in with that foolishness about “seniors only marry for companionship,” we laugh. As Bertha says, “I have a dog for companionship!”
Ten. This marriage will be as unlike the first marriage as it’s possible to get. We were all scarcely out of our teens then (both the Fagans and the McKeevers married in 1962), had no clue what life held for us, and owned precious few assets. To marry in our mid-70s is a different ball game.
How many years will we have? What is God up to here? What will we see when we look back at this from eternity?
God alone knows.
“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). That’s all any of us can do.
After all, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
We are people of faith.