On the Corner

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Fifty years with Diane—what joy!

by Robert Docter – 

In the old barn that was the Army’s original Los Angeles Tabernacle there was no middle aisle. I stood on an elevated platform erected in front of the pulpit looking down that very, very long aisle. The concrete floor held no carpet runner nor did it offer any warmth on that evening of June 12, 1953.

At the foot of the left aisle, in her long, white gown, she stood there alone—no one to escort her—no arm on which to lean—no one to give her to me in marriage.

The music sent its cue to her and with those first steps she began the journey of a lifetime—risking all, unaccompanied by family, supported only by very recent friends. Her eyes held mine during the long trek—a nervous smile graced her face. From afar, I was her escort. As she approached I felt admiration and love cascading to a well established certainty that this magnificent person had a sense of character and devotion worth living a lifetime with.

Now, with that lifetime in its autumn years, she has validated my certainty in that moment beyond any possible prediction. She showers never ending grace—total devotion to promises made—an unquenchable fire of love—a beauty of nurturance that both holds on and lets go, that provides both complete security and confident freedom—a value base lived much more than preached—and, most of all, an orientation to life that in all ways and at all times places people before things.

The gratitude I feel toward her for the immensity of the gifts given me is without measure. She works with kindness, diligence and consistency to polish the blemishes of my personality. With the arrival of each new child and grandchild, she welds together a family that both loves and likes each other. With no great display she models Christian living without administering rules or distributing rewards. There is so much freeing love evident within her no one wants to disappoint her. As a mother, each of her children feels special in relationship with her. As a grandmother she is inexhaustible. As a wife, with passion, she brings respect and complete, exclusive commitment. As a friend, she presents loyalty and constancy.

It was just half a century ago that I joined Diane at the head of that long aisle. Her beauty attracted me first and then held me as I discovered its depth in the integrity of her love, the dimensions of her dedication to others, the splendor of her spirit.

Fifty years. How did it happen so fast?

On the basis of my historic awareness of weather conditions, on June 21, 2003 I had expected a warm sun on this first day of summer. I anticipated a gentle, late afternoon breeze with filigreed patterns of shade from majestic pines and glorious eucalyptus bordering an emerald lawn. Everything was as it should be except the weather.

The day was leaden. Moisture-laden clouds lay heavy above us with contents seemingly ready to empty.

I didn’t feel the cold. I sat next to Diane.

Our six children and twelve grandchildren were honoring us with a celebration of our 50 years of marriage. Close friends, some known for a lifetime, arrived from far and near to share stories of events past. With Diane, I sensed the intimacy of those moments relived in the depth of warm, friendly eyes, voices now older, faces now mature.

What a joy—to be with Diane, surrounded by family and friends

It was, by and large, an Army crowd—for it is in the Army that we have found the lynch pin that holds us to Christian principles, that helps us strive toward an ethic that emulates Christ, that teaches us to build a home that accepts the diversity of the human spirit, that reveals to us an awareness that holiness is found in nonjudgmental love for others.

I am not perfect. Neither is Diane. The Army is not perfect. We are all frail and shallow humans struggling to sense the spirit of Christ within us. I’ve found the help I need in others, including Diane—and the place I find most of them is at the Army.

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