This weekend two relatives I dearly love are celebrating fifty-five years of marriage.
Fifty-five years. A lifetime for some. Others don’t even live to see their fifties, forget about sustaining a marital relationship that long.
Our eldest brother, Richard (Reb to his sibs) and wife, MaryAnne met in 1964 while he was teaching high school math at St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. Reb was in the novitiate to be a Catholic priest in the Basilian Order, meaning he completed seminary but not yet taken his official vows. Originally from Michigan, his teaching assignment was to Texas. He was friends with another seminarian, John Hosty, whose family happened to live in Houston. John and Dick went to a St. Thomas High football game where John introduced Dick to his single sister, MaryAnne, a college senior. Seems MaryAnne had a math class that she had questions about, so their initial meeting was spend sitting in the bleachers at that football game discussing math theory and equations.
As I write these recollections, I’ll surely get several facts wrong. This is what I do know. His nickname Reb comes from his initials, Richard Edward Barry. Growing up, we called him Rebby. He named his firstborn son, Richard Edward so he goes by Reb, but his wife, friends and children know him as Dick. Everyone in the Barry family knows that if you call out “Reb”, his son will answer. While others know him as Dick Barry, he’ll always be my big brother Reb.
This trip to Texas held a surprise for me. I came to celebrate his eightieth birthday and learned that July 24, 2020, was their wedding anniversary. On July 24, 1965, I was present at their wedding, also held in Houston Texas. July trips to Houston have always been joyous occasions for me, regardless of the hot, sticky weather. Over the years I haven’t made that many trips here, but the majority happen to occur in July.
Yesterday brought back some lovely memories of their wedding and my 1965 trip here as a seven-and-a-half-year-old. (Remember when you counted your age in half years? “Hi, I’m Kate and I’m sixty-two-and-a half,” said no one ever. But I digress.) I’ve long held that childhood trip to Houston close to my heart for several reasons: it was my first airplane ride; a trip alone with Mom having her attention, it was my second flower girl experience, and the gracious hospitality of the Bride’s family made a lasting impact.
For this seven-year-old, it was all about the dress. The teal satin transformed this little girl from a broken family into a princess for a day. My parents separated the year prior and divorced earlier that year. Daddy moving out of the house impacted my heart. But as I reflect here now, I see that it wasn’t simply the dress. It was the love the family demonstrated towards mom and I. The Hosty family, Mary Anne, Mary Anne’s late parents, John and Catherine, to her brother John and sister-in-law, Lety – each was gracious, kind, welcoming and extremely hospitable. Surely these were the qualities Dick saw in Mary Anne that attracted him, in addition to her beauty and intellect. She was then and is now, witty, a good conversationist, and a joy to be around.
Handmade by Catherine Hosty in one evening, the satin teal fabric transformed me into a princess. I felt pretty, special, and validated just wearing it. I learned yesterday that the Bride didn’t know until the last minute that I was coming along. They didn’t have to include me. They already had a designated flower girl. But they chose to have two, out of love and generosity. Their kindness went a long way in ways they’d didn’t know.
Family can be dysfunctional and wreck your heart, or it can be wholesome and nourish it. I recall reveling in the attention received those precious few days we visited. Who doesn’t mind interacting with adorable brown-haired seven-year-old? I loved the people I met during that visit and still do. Over the years, the Barry family has grown to five children, three spouses and fifteen grandchildren. Eventually, the grands will marry and great-grands will emerge. I asked Dick yesterday if he ever felt guilt about his decision to leave the priesthood. He said, no – because he wanted a family of his own. His father died when he was just thirteen, so family was deeply important to him. A life-altering decision was made that year. The priesthood for Richard would mean twenty Barry descendants not born. Personally, I feel God orchestrated every step, knowing that beautiful MaryAnne was the perfect medicine for Reb’s ailing heart and the seminary would lead him to Texas, then her. For these two, one plus one equals twenty-five.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in his way,
Psalm 37:23 NKJV
This weekend is about celebrating Richard’s milestone birthday and their milestone wedding anniversary. We are not allowing a viral epidemic or fear to ruin a joyous family occasion. Although it’s not about me, I had to notice and write about the coincidental godincidence that their wedding memories evoked for me. While far from perfect, the Houston Barry clan has always been a symbol of love, hospitality, and laughter to me. Their gatherings are loud and laughter abounds.
Recently, I read a couple of devotional-type articles mentioning joy. They said God wants us to experience renewed joy in the remainder of 2020. It didn’t make sense, because I wasn’t feeling much joy amidst the COVID pandemic. But then our Florida family came to visit last week and we laughed, ate together and celebrated as a family. I felt joyous.
Yesterday when I processed that I was present for their wedding and fifty-fifth anniversary, the memories flooded back. I decided to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to fully heal my heart. I leaned in and remembered. I cried a little. Then I smiled deeply at the majesty of His hand at work in me, in Richard, and maybe even in others.
I don’t think of that teal dress very often, yet teal has become my favorite color in the last few years. Now I know why. And it makes me smile.
Do you have an area of your emotions that God healed using family? I’d love to hear about it.
If you need emotional healing, I urge you to begin the process. Start by simply talking to God about your pain and asking Him to fix it. Then trust His process. Your steps are ordered by Him if you’re His child. Nothing may happen at first. But pay attention. You’ll know when the healing starts.
Christian author and inspirational speaker of truth that makes the darkness tremble. Author of two non-fiction books.