The date was June 15, 1958. The place was Raytown, Missouri. It was the first time I noticed her.
I had just returned from church camp excited, having just met Jesus in a personal way. I was ready to make a public proclamation of my faith.
That Sunday morning two people were to be baptized, yours truly and a cute little brown haired hazel-eyed girl named Judy Hassler. We attended junior high together but I thought she was way too beautiful to ever be interested in a nerd like me. She was exceptionally radiant in her white baptismal gown, but of course she didn’t give me a second glance...
About one year later, half way through our sophomore year at Raytown High School, my best friend George was romancing Miss Hassler. For reasons unknown, he decided to pass her off to me. After George forged a few love notes between us, she began to take notice of me and we began spending time together.
Our first date was a school bus ride for a Youth for Christ rally from Chapel School in Raytown to the old Grand Avenue Temple. I tore open my pant leg on a bus seat. She didn’t notice the tear at all; we were having too much fun together. I was completely smitten.
On March 12, 1959, she and the other members of the pep squad were boarding a bus to the Missouri State basketball tournament in St. Louis. As I helped her up the steps of the bus that morning, my 15 year old heart told me I could not live without that girl. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. After two and a half more years of high school, a move of her family to Topeka, and a long four years of dating on weekends and summer vacations while she attended Washburn University and I went to KU, we finally graduated from college in June of 1965. One month later on July 17, 1965, we returned to Raytown Christian church to get married. It was a long six years but worth the wait!
We moved into our brand new apartment with an enormous rent of $150.00 a month. I settled in at Musselman & Hall and she went to work as an accountant for the Department of Agriculture at the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation. As we began our married life, little did we know that we were soon to move to Columbus, Mississippi to spend four years in the United States Air Force, that it would take us almost five years to have our first child, that we would have wonderful lives as community volunteers and four years of political life and that Musselman & Hall would do so well.
Now, after almost 53 years of marriage, we look back over our wonderful lives together.
We live at our fourteenth address, we have nurtured six dogs, three wonderful daughters, (she had promised me four sons but that is another story) and four terrific grandsons. We have been to all 50 states and all seven continents. Hundreds of people have spent the night in our home. More than twenty people have lived in our home for one month or more. We general contracted two houses ourselves and remodeled a few others.
Judy has made a wonderful life for us and our family. She has taught me about hospitality and the importance of maintaining close ties with intimate friends. She has taught me about forgiveness, grace and compassion. She has taught me about how to parent a handicapped child, how to grandparent four boys and how to help one daughter through cancer treatment and another through divorce.
And now, as we enter our twilight years, having lost all four parents, and now many of our best friends, we find that we grow closer together every day.
As we stood before that altar at Raytown Christian Church so long ago, we pledged to stay together “for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part.” We have experienced all of this except the death part and that draws closer every day. I credit a wonderful woman who has always put me first except when it comes to cleaning the bathroom; that has always been my job.
On that day, July 17, 1965, Dr. Paul Ehly advised us of that great mystery, “… the two shall become one flesh.” I had no idea what he was talking about but now I do. After almost sixty years together I can forecast most of her thoughts, I know what she is going to say. In a restaurant, I know what she is going to order. I know when she is going to change lanes and I know what clothes she is going to buy even before she knows herself.
In his book “The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God,” Pastor Tim Keller writes, “To be loved but known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw us.”
I know myself pretty well and how Judy can love me in spite of all my shortcomings and obsessive compulsive behaviors is beyond me; I just know she does.
Valentine’s Day is a time to think about all things love and to thank God for the blessing of a wonderful woman and a great life together.
Happy Valentine’s Day!