“Fifty-one years, nine months and four days,” Harold Everline spoke tenderly, gently lifting her hand to his lips, and sitting next to her Geri Chair. “That is how long I’ve loved you.” Though Olivia didn’t respond, he continued, “I’ll never forget our first date, my love,” he sighed, “nor how we first met.”
More than a half century earlier, their entire village had succumbed to a terrible cholera epidemic, and since the closest hospital was an hour away, they set up a makeshift hospital in the church. It was a terrible time, sparing no one from death. The sickness ran its course, killing both young and old.
“In the midst of that hellish nightmare,” Harold said, “I looked up and thought I saw an angel. You came breezing in like a whirlwind, never hesitating to care for everyone. While almost everyone else in town stayed away, fearful of contracting the illness themselves, you demonstrated the love of Christ, counting it a privilege to care for the sickest patients, comforting them and cleaning up after them without hesitation.
“As I watched you nursing others with joy and gladness, I knew that for me, there would be no other, and I had to see if you could possibly love me too. And, offering my heart to you, I invited you for dinner.
“Do you remember what you said to me, Olivia?” Harold whispered, while leaning forward and kissing Olivia’s wrinkled cheek. “You said, ‘I’d love to dine with you, Pastor Harry. I thought you’d never ask.’” Rising from his seat next Olivia, Harold walked over to the CD player, turning the power on, as he chose their song from that evening, more than five decades ago…
Humming with the prelude to the song, Harold walked over to Olivia, his beloved wife of fifty-one years today. She was the perfect pastor’s wife, caring for each member of the congregation, and acting as midwife for the women who lived in the mountains and were unable to get to the hospital to have their children. She had also borne four children, giving him three sons and a daughter.
The couple had been through many ups and downs over the years, like many others. They had withstood times of strife and anger, and celebrated times of joy. They had enjoyed times of great increase, and they had endured great loss. There had been times when they had been sure they were doing what was right, and other times, when they realized they were wrong, but through it all, their love had remained steadfast.
When Olivia had first been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Harold had felt his world falling apart. Yet, as he looked from the doctor into his wife’s eyes, he pushed his own fear down, pulling his beloved Olivia into his arms. Seeing the terror in her eyes broke Harold’s heart, and that was when he vowed to himself that he would do whatever was necessary to make this easier for her to bear, and he had, refusing to admit her to a nursing home, until it was no longer possible for him to care for her at home.
Now, today, on their anniversary, Harold walked over to Olivia, and bowing down, as Elvis sang “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, asked her, “May I have this dance?” And though it had been nearly two years since she had responded to anything, Olivia lifted her eyes, gazing intently into Harold’s, as a lone tear slid down her right cheek, and nodded her head. Openly weeping, Harold lifted her tiny body from the Geri Chair, placing her arms over his shoulders, as he held her close singing, “Take my hand, take my whole life too; for I can’t help falling in love with you.”
When the music ended, Harold gently eased her down into her Geri Chair, tilting it slightly back so she wouldn’t slip out of it. Then, after giving her one last gentle kiss, while Olivia sat staring aimlessly into space, her expression blank once again, Harold bowed his head and gave thanks to Almighty God for this one last dance with his beloved Olivia. He also praised the Lord for his time with Olivia today, because the rightness eclipsed every mistake made along the way.
Cheryl A. Showers