It was a pretty, sunny June Saturday morning in Grafton. I woke up in my hotel room at about 6am, having said goodnight to Cheri at their farm just before midnight. Even with a very simple wedding to come, there was a lot to do to prepare, besides the fact that I was so in love that I didn’t want to hardly be without her! But I got up, got ready and dressed, and headed to the church right about 8:30.
We didn’t realize how different our wedding plans were from what was typical in 1981. First of all, we decided on a morning wedding. I think in the ministry years that followed that perhaps I performed one morning wedding in 43 years. But it just seemed to fit, especially with the fact that we weren’t having a big wedding dance at a hall or something. Our plan was to get married at Grafton Federated Church, have a nice little reception in the church basement afterwards with sandwiches and salad – and little colored mints, of course, and after greeting everyone, go ahead and change and head to Winnipeg on our way to a honeymoon in Quebec City.
We did keep some things as traditional. For instance, we were really set on not seeing each other before the wedding service itself, so the first time I saw her that day was when her father walked her down the aisle between the hundreds of folks who came to be part of the wedding. You see, Cheri was a wonderful daughter of the church, from a wonderful family, and I had worked there for three different summers, both as youth pastor and then as an interim while they switched from United Methodist to Presbyterian pastors, part of their federated agreement. So Cheri and her bridesmaids were downstairs in the nice family room, and I was up in one of the classrooms with my groomsmen. We even convinced the photographer to take our together pictures after the reception, which was also pretty unusual. Of course, all the photos total were less than 40 or so, a bit different from the thousands taken at weddings today.
The service itself was pretty simple. We did have a congregational hymn with the words written by a good friend of mine from seminary and sung to the tune of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” but it spoke about the gift God gives each of us of one another. I have to say there is a lot of the service, and even the entire morning that I don’t quite remember. Cheri says we indeed did cut the cake, but all that is quite the blur.
Forty years ago. Not much by eons of history’s standards, but it has truly been a lifetime. We have moved thirteen times, created two sons, cared for a load of pets, and surrounded ourselves with some great antiques that were cheaper to buy when we were young and poor than to buy “new” stuff. We have watched hundreds of movies, made thousands of meals, driven hundreds of thousands of miles. Many of the people who were at our wedding are no longer alive. I would be less than honest if I were to say there have been no arguments, but most of them were over pretty quickly. We haven’t done all we’d like in terms of travel and exploring our world, but perhaps that can happen during the next 40 years. I’d only be 104 at that time…
I have to tell you, however, that I can’t fathom a more precious gift, a more wonderful partner for my own life’s journey that this petite Norwegian farmer’s daughter, who saw fit to marry a guy from an Air Force family – polar opposites, to be sure. But our faith has been wonderfully close, and our perspective of the world also pretty well aligned. We have learned from each other, and like the big rose bush that is blooming in the backyard with dozens of red roses, the blossoming of our life together just keeps getting more and more beautiful, even with the creaks and sore feet and no longer seeming to sleep completely through the night…
Would I do it all again? In less than a heartbeat, to be sure! Part of what the card read that I gave her this morning was, “When I saw her walking down the aisle that day, I remember thinking, ‘This is my favorite person in the whole world.’ I still feel that way every time I see her walking toward me…”
Thanks for letting me share this simply personal part of my life, as I continue to live in retirement, in my “fourth life,” looking forward to what God has planned for me and for us next. Peace this day…
Saying for the day: (from a small plaque Cheri once gave me, quoting Winnie the Pooh) If you live to be a hundred, I want to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.