Twenty-nine years ago, I made some very specific promises to Gabriel, and I became his wife. I heard that marriage was going to be hard. Everybody said so. I was twenty-three years old. How did I know that conventional wisdom would prove to be so wrong?
I almost feel guilty for confessing that marriage has been easy for the two of us, because I know all too well the heartache of so many others. Sure, we’ve experienced our fair share of hard times from infertility to cancer, but through it all, the love we have for each other grew stronger as together we faced whatever challenge came our way. Maybe it helped that Gabriel had a ten year start in life over me, and brought maturity to our relationship. I’m sure that played a part. But as the years have gone by—and we’ve reflected over this many times—I believe it comes back to the core values we chose from the start: Never cross the line of respect, and always try to out-serve each other in love. Believe it or not, that’s it! Believe it or not, that may be enough.
On October 18, 1986, Gabriel and I stood at the altar and he promised me to love me unconditionally with his “deepest love, unselfish devotion and tenderest care.” He promised to be “faithfully committed to me with God’s help,” and he gave me his word that he’d “stay at my side for the rest of his life.” He has lived up to these promises time and time again. One of his favorite sayings is that “love is a demonstration, not an inclination.” And he lives it.
Years ago, I went through a traumatizing experience that brought me to my lowest point emotionally, physically and spiritually. When I was at my lowest, Gabriel was at his strongest. He demonstrated love for me in a way I never could have imagined—love that was tangible, real and deeper that I had ever known—and in that moment I knew I would always be loved by him. This was the unconditional love he had promised—this is what unconditional love looked like.
We’ve been through a lot of life together, and it feels like the party is just getting started. Thank God for such a wonderful gift! From our first picture together to our most recent photo taken a few days ago, I am so glad I’m on this journey of life with Gabriel P. Varela—my husband and my best friend.
Happy Anniversary, Gabriel. I love you!