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54, 25 - How Did They Do It?‏

Today my parents' are celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary. Every year my sister and I tell them they should go out just the two of them but they insist on us accompanying them to dinner, usually at Olive Garden. All day long I've been marveling at that - 54 years together. They've raised two daughters, lost four parents, and prayed in hospital waiting rooms while waiting to hear if surgeries were successful. My mother drove my father to daily radiation treatments for cancer. After all of this, 54 years of the ebb and flows of life, they still hold hands as they walk together, their lives linked together as tightly as their clasped fingers.

I have friends who are also celebrating their wedding anniversary today. Twenty-five years and three children together, one of which has been a special-needs child since before her first birthday when she suffered a brain infection. Through all the struggles of that challenging life, they are still in love. Last fall they took a trip of a lifetime to Italy, taking turns doing the things each wanted to do - museums for her, cooking classes for him. She recently posted wedding photos on Facebook, photos of two people so in love on a day so full of hope. The photos brought tears to my eyes.

How do people do it - how do they weather the storms of life and still want to wake up next to the same person 25 or 54 years later? My marriage had little to no difficulties, relative to what others have gone through.  The most we suffered through were low-paying jobs, then better paying jobs that were disliked, self employment to escape dislike jobs, cars that were unreliable and barely got us from point A to point B - that was it. But yet, we didn't last. We didn't get past our 14th anniversary and we marked that one by removing our wedding rings, never to put them back on again.

Maybe it takes a love being tested to make it last. Maybe it isn't until a life-threatening medical condition threatens the chance of another morning next to the person you love to make you appreciate what they mean to you that makes you hold tight to your linked lives. Maybe a strong marriage is forged in the challenge of life with a child changed forever by something out of your control.

I don't know what the answer is exactly. I may never know. Today I'm just thankful that I have these two examples to show me what marriage can be and to remind me that there are happily ever afters and maybe, just maybe, there's one out there for me.

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