by Patti Richter
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Song of Solomon 2:4; NKJ
Heart-shaped chocolate boxes abound for Valentine’s Day, and some can be found in senior-living communities, though romantic couples are hard to spot. But one residential center I visited a few years ago was abuzz over a pair of love birds in their 80s.
The couple, Jim and Marion, had avoided public displays of affection, like hand-holding, “since people talk,” Marion said. But they couldn’t hide their joy, especially from those familiar with their pre-courtship behavior: Jim was withdrawn; Marion mostly kept to herself.
Marion, my mother-in-law, said it all began with a game of bridge. She’d lived alone for 25 years and preferred independent activities like exercise, prayer, and Bible reading, but she also enjoyed playing bridge, and she knew her way around the table. “It keeps an old mind sharp,” she explained. Her otherwise limited social life consisted of attending Sunday worship services and providing Christian mentoring to several women.
Providence brought Jim to the bridge table. His wife of 57 years had died unexpectedly only weeks before their planned transition to assisted living. Grief and stage-four pancreatic cancer kept the otherwise sociable man from caring about his new surroundings. The former engineer who once flew helicopters remained holed up in his apartment for nearly a year, surfacing only at dining room hours. Jim’s daughters pleaded with him to get out and meet people, and he finally complied by signing up for bridge.
On a summer day, shortly after Jim rejoined the living, Marion noticed him walking toward the courtyard bench where she sat reading. He seemed glad to see her, saying, “I’d like to learn some tips on the game.” (He later admitted that Marion’s voice and personality delighted him and made him want to spend more time with her.)
Marion’s initial interest in Jim was limited to his soul. She learned he’d faithfully attended church all his life without ever reading the Bible. After she invited him to study the Bible with her, she realized Jim was brilliant. He asked compelling questions that led to meaningful discussions between them. As the weeks passed, his flame of interest in God’s Word became a fire of desire to know God in a personal way. Jim soon fell in love—with Marion, and with Jesus, his Savior.
Marion observed how this naturally kind and compassionate man went out of his way to assist others. She came out of her shell around Jim and realized she’d been lacking in the love department by keeping to herself. And her heart warmed to him.
The depth of love the two began to enjoy surprised and overwhelmed them. Marion, who’d felt unlovable for most of her life, described it as “a gift from God, heavenly, more than I could comprehend.”
By late fall, Jim and Marion hosted their families for dinner in the private room of an Italian restaurant. We all met and interacted awkwardly until Jim rose from his seat, which took a while. In wide-eyed wonder we watched him struggle to pull a ring box from his suit pocket and ask for Marion’s hand.
By Valentine’s Day, the couple’s spring wedding plan took a back seat as Jim’s cancer moved to the front. Their love story would close in the same way it had begun, focused on God’s Word. In the hours before Jim’s peaceful departure, Marion sat beside him reading from Romans:
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5 NIV
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.
Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.
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