"My dear, you are so lucky. I used to have what you have."
The well-dressed elderly lady seated in the church pew next to me took me quite by surprise as she leaned in and spoke to me following the Sunday service. Somewhat befuddled, I managed to utter a quiet thank you, although at that instant I was a little unsure of the meaning behind her words. What did I possess that this obviously well-off woman did not?
Strands of pearls adorned her neck, and I could not help but notice the many sparkling gemstones that graced her aging fingers.
As I looked down at my own hands, the answer became apparent. Interlocked in my hand was the hand of my husband.
Listening to the sermon together on Sunday mornings had led us to a natural closeness to God and to each other. More often than not, my husband would reach for my hand during the sermon or put his arm around mine during the time of silent prayer and reflection.
This time together was sacred to us in more than just the obvious way.
With our two young daughters in their Sunday school rooms, we reconnected and recharged after a hectic week of work, playgroups, and diaper changes.
When I looked across the pew at the woman next to me, I realized that she sat alone.
Most likely, the husband whose hand once held hers on Sunday mornings had passed on and left her with the memories of what I now share with my husband. “I am so lucky,” I whispered to her in reply.
As I stood up and prepared to leave the church, I looked up at my husband, Allen, and smiled.
What I have with him is indeed a special blessing.
As a thirty-something, stay-at-home mom, I relish the opportunity to talk with other women my age and swap stories about our young children.
However, when the topic turns from life in the preschool carpool line to complaints about spouses, I become uncharacteristically mute.
Stories of husbands who do not equally contribute to child care or housework are commonplace.
The same holds for the husbands who travel for days (weeks, months . . .) on end and have little energy left over for romance or family.
After seven years of marriage, I now realize that I am an especially lucky woman!
My husband, Allen, once an executive with all the pressures of long commutes, business trips, and the very real possibility of transferring across the country, away from my close-knit extended family, made the difficult decision to resign from his high-powered job. He now owns his own small business in our hometown.
Instead of executive perks, he now gets to see the perky antics of our two little girls as we eat lunch together every day.
Rather than coming home from work after 7:00 pm, Allen is home like clockwork for our nightly six o'clock family dinner.
Like every household with young children, much work is left for the post-dinner hour.
We draw baths, read stories, and wash the dishes. Instead of retreating to the world of ESPN or pretending to tinker with something "manly" in the garage or basement, my husband is right by my side as we complete the nightly household tasks.
When weekends roll around, I am the blessed woman who does not need to cook a single meal.
Warm maple syrup and hazelnut coffee aromas waft upward from our kitchen as Allen prepares breakfast and allows me the luxury of lingering in a hot shower.
This wonderful man does not hesitate to give me a much-needed break whenever I want to go shopping or out to lunch with friends.
When I return I find snowmen in our yard, LEGO castles in our playroom, and my two sweet princesses wearing paper crowns that Daddy cut out for them to wear.
"Dad made us a teddy bear picnic while you were at Target!" my four-year-old excitedly exclaims as I enter the door, loaded down with shopping bags.
"We had real food! Pretzels and raisins on the big blanket!"
I am given alone time to shop and socialize sans diaper bags, but my children are the recipients of the real gift . . . time spent with their amazing father.
The man who irons all of our clothes, cooks, cleans, and wraps every Christmas present (honestly, all I do is put on the sticky bows and gift tags) is also generous with his affection toward me.
After the children are asleep, I often find myself sitting in front of a warm fire or a few lit candles.
Herbal tea is served to me as we discuss our children's latest antics or our hopes for the future.
I realize that the elderly lady in church was quite correct. What I possess is truly special.
I am the luckiest woman in the world to be blessed with such a caring, giving husband.
Through the words of a complete stranger, I am reminded to cherish each moment with the man I love.
I fully intend to keep his hand intertwined in mine for as long as God allows.