I sat down next to them on the plane, and immediately he turned to me with bright eyes.
“Could you do me a favor, my dear?” he asked. I nodded, looking into his worn, wrinkled eyes that swam with kindness and wisdom.
“Could you check on my cane? It’s in the bin overhead, and I don’t want it to get crushed.”
I smiled and stood, peering into the bin and assuring him that his cane was in tact. He grabbed my hand and patted it gently.
“That’s good,” he said. “I’m not much good without that cane. It’s my third wheel!”
The woman sitting next to him was small and thin, her hair the bright kind of grey that makes one look elegant rather than old. She grinned at me, too, her eyes crinkled beneath thick glasses.
“What’s he talking to you about now?” she asked. The man grabbed her hand and squeezed it tight.
Within minutes, we had struck up a conversation where I learned that the two of them, Mr. Jimmy and Miss Darcy, were both 93 years old.
“We are very old,” Mr. Jimmy told me, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Where are you headed?” I asked.
“We’re going to Kentucky to stay with my daughter. She’s old, too! She’s 71!”
Miss Darcy shook her head as Mr. Jimmy headed down a rabbit trail of stories about raising five daughters. His eyes watered often, and I couldn’t tell if it was from the dry air or the memories.
“Our third daughter died a few years ago,” he told me, and this time I knew the tears were real. “She had cancer. It happened very fast. She was only in her early 60’s! We miss her.” They grasped hands again.
“How long have you been married?” I asked them, swallowing over the lump in my throat.
“Well, let’s see,” Mr. Jimmy leaned back and looked at his wife who smiled and shook her head.
“He remembers!” she told me with a laugh. “He likes to pretend he’s forgotten that when people ask.”
“I guess it’s been 73 years now.”
And I about fell out of my seat. Seventy-three years of marriage and there they were still holding hands, laughing, telling jokes, and living life together!
“Well,” Mr. Jimmy said, a twinkle in his eye as he leaned toward me. “First of all, we both managed to stay alive all this time.” Miss Darcy smacked the top of his arms.
“It’s Jesus, my dear,” she said, leaning over him a little so she could peer into my eyes. “You love each other and you love Jesus.”
“Well,” Mr. Jimmy interrupted, “you do also have to stay alive!” I laughed and shook my head alongside Miss Darcy. “She also makes sure that I always have my glasses when we leave the house.”
She patted his hand gently, then the two of them settled back in their seats as the plane backed up and began taxiing down the runway. For the duration of the flight, I snuck little glances at them from the corner of my eyes.
Mr. Jimmy promptly fell asleep, and after he did, Miss Darcy reached over and pulled the glasses from his face, tucking them in his shirt pocket for safe keeping.
She tried to read a book, but she quickly dozed off as well, her shoulder leaned in against his, the two of them clearly an in-sync team. I blinked back tears looking at them.
Seventy-three years is a long time together. In a world where marriage is often seen as expendable, it was awe-inspiring to see the depth of love that existed between two people who had lived an entire lifetime together.
They raised children and buried them. They watched grandchildren grow up, and delighted in great-grandchildren.
They did all of this side-by-side. What a gift it must be to be given that much time with the one you love.
I thought on my own marriage. We are seventeen years into this journey, and I know that Mr. Jimmy and Miss Darcy walked wasn’t easy. Marriage is work – sometimes hard work.
Perhaps my husband and I will be given the gift of long years together. We can certainly hope for that. But life is also fragile, this we know too well, and so rather than wallow in the hope for something that cannot be guaranteed, I decided to simply be thankful for the days that we have.
We’re in the thick of raising children. It’s hectic and loud and stressful and expensive, but at the end of the day I lay my head down on a pillow next to his, and I know that alone is a grand gift.
Someday, Lord willing, I will sit beside him on a plane on the other side of child rearing. Maybe he will fall asleep and I’ll gently remove his glasses so they don’t dig into his nose. Maybe he’ll need a cane, and I will need an arm to hold me steady.
Maybe we will get there. But until then, I’m going to celebrate the moments we have here and now – each loud, raucous, overwhelming second of this simple little love story I’ve been given.