I Will Be Here


Sorry, our wedding pictures are still in a box somewhere. This was at our daughter, Hannah’s wedding.


November 18 marks my 25th wedding anniversary. Wedding anniversaries are by nature a thing two people share. I know I should say our anniversary, but for the life of me I can’t. I have been married to the same man for 25 years, but I have not been married to the same man for 25 years. Anyone who has been married that long knows that none of us are really married to the same person we married however many years ago. We change. Life takes its toll and we change. I am not the same person I was 25 years ago. I would wager that I have changed almost as drastically as Strokeman has in the past four and a half years.

Part of surviving for me has been to detach myself a bit from my relationship with my husband. But however painful it is to grieve the loss of what was I don’t want to forget it. I want to remember who it was I fell in love with, so that I can continue to care for this man I am still married to with compassion and tenderness. I have to work at this every day – this balance between keeping enough distance to make it possible for me to exist in the role of caregiver to a man whose brain just doesn’t have the capacity to really see me, and staying engaged enough in who he was to remember why I am doing this. And so. For my benefit more than yours, I am going to remember those first days.

I was 28 and single. I was working as a medical social worker in Rowlett, Texas. I lived in Dallas, but had begun attending a church in south Fort Worth for reasons that started with a Sunday school class on Romans back in 1982. I know it isn’t fashionable these days, but all I really wanted was to be married and have kids.

There was this man at my church. I had heard about him for a few months on the prayer list – a divorce, custody issues, etc. Then I began to notice him sitting there on Sunday mornings with his daughter and son. What I noticed was how gentle he was as he spoke to his children. He seemed so tenderhearted with them especially his daughter. It won my heart. I mentioned him to my best friend, Jann, then dismissed it out of hand – he probably didn’t know I exist, and what would possess me to want to deal with an ex-wife and stepchildren? But secretly I dreamed of being the one to bring healing to broken hearts.

One Sunday he came to church holding hands with a pretty little blond woman attended by two sons. I heard through the grapevine that they were engaged. “So much for that,” I thought. I went back to working my career and pining away for the life I wanted. “I would be happy for the rest of my life if I could just get married and have children!”

A few months later I received a letter in the mail from Lillian, Texas. I thought it might be an informal wedding invitation. Instead, it was a letter from this man. “I have observed your ministry in the church among the children and the young people and have been greatly blessed by your singing…” Thus began an old fashioned correspondence between us. (Apparently things hadn’t worked out with the pretty blonde.) During this time we saw very little of each other at church. We each had obligations that kept us away.IMG_1907

Finally, after several letters had been exchanged, Strokeman wrote, “Would you like to have dinner with me?” My response was a snarky, “Don’t you think we ought to actually talk to each other on the phone or something?” That phone call! It was my first introduction to the fact that Strokeman doesn’t communicate well over the phone. We have laughed over the years about how we might never have made it to the altar if we had started with that phone call.

We continued to write, but added a weekly dinner date. Very soon, Strokeman began to make noises about marriage. I tried to be the voice of reason. We hardly knew each other! We needed to take our time. I managed to hold him off 9 days short of 8 months from the first letter. 6 months from the first date.

It didn’t take long to learn that getting married and having kids was not going to be the thing to keep me happy forever. It was a hard first year. I was selfish and set in my ways. He was wounded and insecure. But we made it. We made it, and we grew to love and appreciate each other. We built a beautiful, traditional marriage. He went to work and I stayed home and raised our children. We didn’t have a perfect marriage, but we did have a good one. I can remember more than one day thinking to myself what a blessing it was to be married to THIS man. I was thankful for all the good in him and in the way we worked through the problems and became best friends. He taught me to be loving and kind. I taught him how to appreciate a good pun (well, tolerate anyway) and how to come up with a song for any subject. He taught me to appreciate creation science, I taught him to enjoy layers of texture in food. He gave me his love for trees. I gave him my love for a good cup of tea with milk and sugar.

So here we are, 25 years later, and I still love him as much as I ever did. It hurts more now, but I still love him. His anniversary gift will come in the mail today. “The Midnight Special” – 11 DVD’s of music from the ‘70’s. It’s one of many things he sees advertised on TV that he thinks he must buy.

My little brother sang “I Will Be Here” by Steven Curtis Chapman  at our wedding. I didn’t realize at the time how this would all play out in our lives, but now, when Strokeman accuses me of never loving him and having been unhappy our entire married life, I just say to him, “Tommorrow morning when you wake up, I will be here.”

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29 Responses to I Will Be Here

  1. Very beautiful. Shedding tears this morning at the beauty of your devotion and the beauty of your marriage. I would like to say more but at five months pregnant I can’t seem to quit crying long enough to formulate an adequate comment.

  2. Melanie says:

    Absolutely beautiful, Deanna. I wish you a Happy and Bless Anniversary and will now go finish my ugly cry after reading your beautiful story.

  3. lizzigroves says:

    This breaks my heart and encourages my soul. I love you.

  4. WriteFitz says:

    Such a beautiful tribute! Thanks for letting us peek into the past with you. **sniff**

  5. Nancy Carnes says:

    Thank you for keeping your marriage vows, in sickness and in health. From someone who remembers both that class on Romans in 1982 and your wedding.

  6. You always make me cry. You inspire me. You’re in my heart everyday. Hold tight to what is good and true!

  7. Brenda keck says:

    Beautiful. Inspiring

  8. Kathy Nutford says:

    Thank you for sharing the early part of your story, which I have only gathered tidbits of before. I am amused that our stories have parallels – we were married less than 8 months after he first asked me out, but our best conversations are often on the phone, still, and if my husband wrote me a letter, I would probably faint! I admire your courage as you walk through each day.

  9. You are one of my biggest inspirations on vow-keeping. It’s not easy, for either side of the equation in marriage. Hey, you weren’t 28 in 1982, or did I read that wrong? Happy Memories of your Anniversary.

  10. Randy says:

    First time to hear this story….wonderful. I enjoyed your gift of writing in high school, and enjoyed it just as much today.

  11. Becky Seevers says:

    This is precious, Deanna. I’m grateful to know some missing details of your story. Give Sherman our love and remember we love you too.

  12. rachelm857 says:

    Deanna, this was so beautifully written and so moving. I know that somewhere deep inside, his soul remembers you. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  13. rachelm857 says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was so beautifully written, and so moving.

  14. christina says:

    This made me cry! Thank you for sharing the testimony for those of us who love you but weren’t there at the beginning of it. (I didn’t even know my husband sang at your wedding!) Strokeman’s gentleness and quiet kindness were probably the first things that endeared him to me, too. At first glance he intimidated me (short people problems), but his demeanor quickly set me at ease that first weekend I stayed at your home after A’s seminary graduation.

    Remembering where we started helps us honor the husbands we’re married to today, but I understand how it also can intensify and reawaken the grief, even when we thought we were starting to cope pretty well with the new normal.

    Praise God for His faithfulness to keep you faithful to each other for 25 years. I’m sorry I missed your actual anniversary but pray you recognized God’s love in it. I was just thinking this morning how our fallen human tendency to look for a secure identity in even the best things of this world is like looking for honey in a wasps’ nest. Your post just at this time echoes that for me.

    May grace and peace be multiplied to you today through the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of all true sweetness in this life and the next. xxoo

    • Yes, Allen sang quite beautifully at my wedding. The one mentioned here, as well as “How Beautiful” by Twyla Paris. You are so right about looking for significance in this world being like looking for honey in a wasps’ nest. Close, but no cigar. Christ must be our all in all.

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