I do believe God in His wisdom sends individuals at the most important junctures in our lives to help us see more clearly things we might otherwise miss.
His name was Walt Colteryahn; a no nonsense New Englander who knew how to draw out the best qualities in anyone. We found each other by way of a church choir. Though I was not Methodist, mutual friends had told me a small church was in need of a natural tenor. My own church had little to offer musically so I readily accepted their invitation. The little white church with granite accents was one of the central edifices in the town square of this picturesque Vermont village. Gas lights that had been electrified 80 years before hung over the sanctuary like a picture frozen in time. The imposing velvet laden white pulpit stood majestic like a monument to beloved pastors who had preached The Word over it for over 100 years.
As I descended the dark staircase to my first practice in the basement, I wondered if I would like this group. I shouldn’t have worried, just one evening with my new friends, I was hooked. I found the spiritual family and camaraderie I was sorely missing. The music was fun and challenging.
I was the youngest member in the group. I was all of 26 years old with a wife and only our first born having arrived. Walt sensed that evening that I needed a hand at getting to know everyone, so he introduced himself with a hearty hello and slap on the back. He promptly took me around to introduce me to the all other choir members as if he’d known me for years. We became fast friends. Bald with a self deprecating sense of humor, you couldn’t help but love him because he was so warm and genuine. His laugh was so infectious and his personality soothing, he was like hot apple cider on a frosty autumn day. You felt warm and content with him!
I was working for a small radio station at the time and despite my best efforts to provide for my family and remodel an 1864 farmhouse, Walt seemed to know just when the stresses of my life warranted a personal visit. He’d bring a baked item that his “bride” cooked and he’d stay long enough to listen and give us encouragement and hope from the “Good Book”. One day I asked him how long had he been married? He told me almost 50 years. Since I had only been married three years, I asked naively, “you still call her your bride?” With a broad grin he said, “I promised to cherish and love her the day we got married and since I always have, it made her my bride for life.”
I thought about those words carefully long after Walt had driven off in his old Chevy and headed home. He taught me something extremely valuable. A well placed word makes all the difference in the world, in a relationship. By his example I too have called my wife “my bride” since he taught me his secret in 1987.
I lost track of Walt after we moved away, but I continue to do the things he taught me, make new friends and offer encouraging words to everyone I meet. I’m sure if he knew this groom and “bride” continue to be happy after 28 years, he would be proud indeed.