The Wife of Your Youth
It was a heartbreaking comment from my heartbroken son. Two years after her passing Campbell posted this:
“Realized today that I have no more remaining memories of my mother before she was sick. Even in the older memories, sick her has been superimposed over the version of her who was really there.”
From the time Campbell was seven to the time he was 16 he watched his mom go through three different battles with cancer the last of which ended with her home-going. As painful as his honest assessment of his own experience is, it is not my experience. While I maintain that she was as beautiful the day she died as she was the day I married her, though time, sacrifice and love left their marks on her like anyone else, my challenge is quite the opposite. While I am able to remember a thousand and one precious moments along the way, births and miscarriages, arguments and hysterical laughter, exotic locales and suburban enclaves, each of them stars my beloved as she appeared on our wedding day.
Solomon wisely calls on us to rejoice in the wife of our youth (Proverbs 5:18). I used to puzzle over this text. The best I could come up with as to its intent was that we are here being called not to succumb to the temptation to, as we grow older, trade in our wives on a newer model. This surely makes better sense than a crass assessment, that Solomon is telling young husbands, “Enjoy her youth while you can- it will soon be gone.” From where I stand now, looking down upon her grave, I see it differently.
That woman in the veil, covering the radiance of her smile as she walked down the aisle with her father, that’s the woman that I remember. She is the one who served me sparkling grape juice in our first apartment, her way of letting me know she was carrying Darby. She is the one who hung pictures in our first home. She is the one who smiled, who believed, who trusted when I suggested we leave all that we knew to go to rural Virginia and see if God would bless us. It’s the same woman who not only opened our lives to the children He blessed us with, but who opened her home to a cavalcade of students, parishioners, pilgrims. The same soft hand on which I slipped that ring held my hand when my own cancer and church challenges beat me down. The same soft lips I kissed before that altar kissed me as I showed her on that mournful wintry night, when we said goodbye to lost loved ones, the picture of Donovan the adoption agency sent me with the message, “Come get your son!!!”
Youth is a time of promise. The fulfillment of that promise creates the illusion of decay. It looks like our bodies break down, give out. Each moment, however, for we who are His, is actually a step forward. We are stepping out of death and into life. We are becoming more, not less what we were. The older we get, the younger we become. I love, I rejoice in the wife of my youth not at the expense of the wife of my middle age. I love the wife of my youth because she was ever blooming into what she always was. I wasn’t, as we aged together, losing her to illness and age. I was meeting her anew and falling in love more and more each day. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.