How do I love thee? let me count the ways . . .
Every day, Polly, without fail, texts me when she arrives at work. The screenshot above is of a text conversation we had several years ago.
I love the last text from Polly, “I’d go to hell and back with you!” — complete with two smileys, signifying that her words are meant in a humorous way. We can’t, of course, go to Hell and back. There is no hell. Hell and Heaven are mythical places used by preachers to keep congregants in line. In classic carrot-and-stick fashion, preachers promise congregants Heaven if they will play by the rules, and Hell if they don’t.
While there is no such thing as Hell, it is an apt metaphor for many of the things Polly and I have experienced over the past forty-seven years. We started dating in the fall of 1976 and married the summer of 1978. In July we celebrated our forty-fifth wedding anniversary. Polly and I have had a wide range of experiences as a married couple. Good times, hard times. Heaven, Hell. I can look back over our lives together and see we have experienced a fair bit of Hell in our lives: Poverty. A child born with Down Syndrome. Church strife. Severe health problems. Disagreements with parents and extended family. Loss of faith. We have had extended periods as husband and wife when we wondered if would ever stop raining; if the sun would ever shine again; if life would ever return to “normal.” Yet, through it all, we persevered; and in that sense we have indeed been to Hell and back. No matter the circumstance, with stoic determination, we hung on, hoping (and praying) for a better tomorrow. And as sure as Marjorie Taylor Greene will say something stupid, better times did come our way.
I could list numerous reasons why I love Polly, but the one reason that stands above all others is that when I have descended into Hell, she has been right beside me, and when I emerge from the pit into the sunshine of a better day, she is still there.
Forty-five years ago, Polly and I stood before friends and family at the Newark Baptist Temple and recited the following vows:
Groom: I, Bruce, take thee, Polly, to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.
Bride: I, Polly, take thee, Bruce, to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.
Till death do us part. The hells of life have certainly left us scarred, but we have endured. Every day presents us with new challenges, but hand-in-hand, Polly and I meet them together. And if we must, yet again, descend into Hell for a time, we know we will make it because we have one another. To each other, we are friends who will be there through thick and thin.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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