Column: Lives well lived


It was a warm August afternoon in the city of Eugene, Ore., when David married Kathy in a small chapel in the presence of their family and friends, 60 years ago this week.

Kathy’s dress, made from silver-shot fabric her soon-to-be-in-laws brought back from Damascus, tarnished in the heat and sweat. David’s white tuxedo jacket, the height of style and panache, suited him perfectly.

It was 1958. World War I officially ended — yes, you read that right — after Andorra, left out of the Treaty of Versailles, finally signed a peace treaty with Germany. Over in the United States, NASA was born, and school integration led the headlines.

Elvis joined the army. Hoola Hoops were invented. So was Barbie, and so was Lego. The Yankees beat Milwaukee 4-games-to-3 in the World Series, and Arnold Palmer won his first Masters. No official word on his signature drink.

In Eugene, on that August day, Dave and Kathy headed for Banff, in British Columbia, for their honeymoon, before heading to Syracuse, N.Y. for their senior year of college. The Air Force lay ahead. Vietnam. Pan American Airways. Dave would pastor churches in Wisconsin, in Pennsylvania, in Washington, before retiring and moving with Kathy to the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where flowers bloom in their front yard and blackberries beg to be picked across the driveway — if the birds don’t eat them first.

Kathy taught school for a few years, taught Sunday School for decades, taught Bible studies until the day she couldn’t any more. She worked in a bookstore for awhile and tutored in English and always, always, she washed clothes and cooked meals and tidied up the house until Dave took over some of those duties when a stroke stole away her powers.

Three daughters arrived in the years following their August wedding. And one son, lost before he breathed, grieved in silence and stolen tears. Each daughter found a husband and seven grandchildren came along, with five great-grands, to date.

There were a few cats. And dreams of horses. And there were islands, always islands. Catalina, where they met, and Orcas, where they raised their girls. Okinawa, and West Berlin — man-made island, though it was — and Bainbridge and Fernie, and Key West.

There were airplanes and helicopters, ferryboats and station wagons, an Audi, some Fords, and two canes, now, for Kathy. There were cameras. Oy, vey, were there cameras. And cookbooks, and sewing machines, and seashells by the seashore.

There were moves. So many moves. I don’t even know how many. Several dozen? Different states, different countries, back to yet more states, more towns, more homes. And boxes upon boxes of books.

And always, always, in the moves and the jobs and the cats and the recipes, there was love. Their love of God. Their love for each other. Their love for their family. There was never any doubt about the love. Their daughters knew that from day one. Besides, all that kissing gave it away.

Sixty years. That’s a long time. A lot of laughter. A lot of teasing. A lot of holding hands. A lot of forgiveness. A lot of prayer. A lot of in-it-together.

When their children failed, they forgave. And disciplined. And showed by example how to parent, how to persevere, how to walk with God.

How good our God has been to my parents. And to me, that I should be called their child.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” Hebrews 12:1 NIV

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is