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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

    #3 – A Later-in-Life Love Story


Welcome back to The Lemonade Stand for the third in a summer series on using whatever ingredients you have — the sour or the salty, the savory or the sweet — to find beauty in life.

(The winner of last week’s giveaway of Find Rest is Donna L. of Cape Cod. Congratulations!)


His name is Dan, hers—Olivia. But before Olivia, there was Glenda Kay.


This is their story.


When a couple has been happily married for over 50 years, their lives have become so entwined that nothing, it seems, could pull them apart. Sprouting in separate places, they met, wrapped their arms around the other, and put down roots. God was invited into their marriage as living host, not occasional guest. Shared faith in the Three-in-One made the one-plus-one simply one.


Dan and Kay were that couple. Married in their early 20’s, it was always just the two of them plus the One who brought them together.  No children arrived to grow their home. They grew their hearts instead to embrace friends who became family—welcoming neighbors, co-workers, church members and strangers alike to sit around their table.


They made their vows and kept those vows through the rich and the poor times, the good and the hard times. Dan and Kay loved to travel, crisscrossing the country to visit family, cheering on a beloved nephew as if he was their own son. They retired from Illinois to Tennessee in 2017, frequently crossing the mountains to visit their former pastor after he and his wife moved to North Carolina the following year.


Then came May of 2019, and Kay’s diagnosis. Dan was shattered by the news, yet Kay accepted it with her usual pragmatism—dictating her obituary to her sister, tutoring Dan in keeping the family books, turning her faith towards the One whom she would join when she and Dan were forced to part.


The parting came six months later. Seared by loss, Dan became seriously ill just two months later with the wretched virus that was to devastate much of the globe. 2020 passed in a blur of grief as Dan fought his way back to health.


Knowing how social Dan had always been, friends knew it wasn’t good for him to be alone. In the months to come, some well-meaning matchmaking began, but how can a man give his heart to another when it had belonged to one woman for so long?


As he regained his strength, Dan returned to church, resumed singing in the 70-member choir, resolving to praise God even in the wake of his aching loss.


One year ended, another arrived.


And then Darlene, a fellow member of the choir, suggested that Dan meet her beautiful sister Olivia who lived two states away in coastal South Carolina. Only three years apart in age, Dan and Olivia had lost their marriages in different ways. Darlene could not shake the conviction, bolstered through prayer, that these two who understood heartbreak should – no, must – meet one another.


Olivia and Dan agreed to exchange phone numbers, sending their initial hellos and photos by text, neither realizing they had the other’s landline rather than mobile, both assuming the other wasn’t interested since there was no response. Their relationship seemed destined to end before it began, like two star-crossed lovers in a Shakespearean drama.


 But the divine Author was at work, and what happened next would strain your credulity, dear reader, if it weren’t truer than true.


 Lonely and frustrated about another situation, Dan took a long drive into the Tennessee mountains one day, meandering along a parkway he and Kay had especially enjoyed. Impulsively, he decided to pull off at an overlook but was annoyed to discover a van taking up several parking spaces.


As he exited his car, Dan glanced at the driver and did a double-take.


“Darlene?” he exclaimed. “What are you doing up here?”


“My sisters are visiting from out of state and we’re on an outing,” she said, whipping open the sliding door. “And Dan, this is Olivia!”


You know what they say about history and all the rest.


 But despite the what-are-the-chances-of-meeting-like this, life is not a romance novel.


Dan and Olivia had finally met, and in the months to come they discovered many mutual interests in addition to their shared faith. Yet Dan had been married for over a half-century to Kay. Despite his attraction to the gentle, lovely Olivia, how could he be sure he could love someone again?


The master storyteller had one more plot twist for Dan.


On a road trip to Kentucky some months into his friendship with Olivia, Dan stopped at a random rest area to use the facilities. As he walked toward the building, an unremarkable-looking woman approached him carrying what appeared to be a clipboard.


Oh boy, Dan thought, someone taking a survey. I’m not interested.


But before he could slip by, she asked where he was from. Reluctantly, he answered and moved past only to have her call after him, “What church do you attend there?”


Uh-oh, someone proselytizing at a rest stop.


Lifelong Baptist that he was, Dan supplied the name of his home church, hoping that would get him off the hook, but the woman pressed on.


“Do you know someone named Darlene?”


Puzzled, Dan nodded, only to have the woman turn and call out to the man behind her: “John, John! This is Dan. This is Olivia’s Dan!”


What are the chances of meeting a stranger at an out-of-state rest area who knows you are seeing someone named Olivia?


What are the chances, stranger still, of describing the encounter to others only to discover that no one, including Darlene, knew a soul fitting the description of the woman or the man called John?


What are the chances that God might use a messenger at a rest stop to confirm his will for Dan?

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

This writer won’t share every piece of this love story. Unlike the family pastor, who was there with Dan from the beginning, she came into the tale late.


 But she has been married to that pastor for nearly 50 years now, and last Saturday she stood witness as he led Dan and Olivia in their vows in the shadow of a South Carolina lighthouse.  


This love story might be set later in life, but it’s never too late to experience the mystery of the divine math—how the Three-in-One can make one-plus-one simply, one. 


-        Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2024

“Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.” Ecclesiastes 11:7












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