Happy Anniversary

When I moved to Seattle in the aftermath of my divorce, I was emotionally broken.  I had stayed years longer than I should have with a man who would succumb to the ravages of alcoholism a mere year and a half after the marriage ended.  It was a dark time for me.  Trying to restart my insurance sales career in a new city, I joined a breakfast networking organization.  One early September morning, heading down to the waterfront from the Denny Regrade, I walked in fog so thick that I could barely see the sidewalk in front of me.

I grew up in the desert and didn’t know much about fog other than what I saw in old British moves where, it seemed to me, rain and fog always went together.  So it was a big shock to me that morning, when once the breakfast meeting was over, I stepped outside to discover that the fog had burned off, and I walked home in brilliant sunlight.  I went straight home and wrote this poem which can be found in my book of poetry, After the Fire.


I walk in fog
Its velvet touch caresses me
And hides the hurt.
Beyond the fog
The sun shines clear and bright
I must keep moving
I have earned the light.

I wrote that in September of 1981, and I did keep moving after that.  In 1985, while doing a poetry reading at a widowed retreat, I met Bill, a man whose first wife, Lynn, died of breast cancer two years to the day after my first husband died.  They both passed away a few minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Our two families had been through some tough times—emotionally and financially.  Dealing with a longterm chronic illness with a fatal outcome is hard on everyone—the patient, the spouses, and the kids.

We met, compared notes for a while, relearned how to laugh, and got married six months after meeting.  People made fun of us about that amazingly brief courtship, but we had both had our lifetime’s worth of dreams blasted into oblivion.  We had no idea how much time we had, and we didn’t want to waste a minute of it.

I’m writing this on Wednesday, the day before our 32nd wedding anniversary.  It turns out we had way more time than either of us expected!  But that’s why, on this day of unexpected and unseasonal sun in mid December, I’m thinking about fog.

You see, thirty-two years ago this week, the sun came out and a bank of fog settled in over the entire Puget Sound area.  Bill’s house in south Bellevue was high enough that we were above the fog line.  We could see the gold statue of Maroni on top of the Mormon Temple and we could see Mount Baker far to the north, but everything else was under that blanket of fog.  The weather held for days.  Planes couldn’t land or take off from Sea-Tac.  The minister performing our wedding flew in from Kansas on a plane that had to land at Boeing Field.  My parents got as far as LA and then turned around and went back home to Arizona because their flight was canceled.  Bill’s mother and sister and baby made it to the wedding after spending most of 24 hours at LAX.

By the time we got back from our all-too-brief honeymoon, the fog had finally dissipated, and there’s been no similar recurrence since—at least not one serious enough to shut down the airports.  So it feels to me as though in terms of weather and in terms of our lives together, we’ve had 32 years of light.  There have been challenges along the way, of course, but over all it’s been a long stretch of smooth sailing.

I have no doubt that some of the people reading this post are looking at the holidays through their own difficult circumstances—their own kind of fog.  If that’s the case, maybe you need to go back, read through that poem one more time, and imprint it on your heart.

Keep moving.  The sun is out there.  You have earned the light.

Merry Christmas.

30 thoughts on “Happy Anniversary

  1. That was the winter our family went to Mazatlan, we were one of the very few planes that got to take off before the airport shut down for several days: lots of cheering on the plane as it took off! We heard that the airport was completely shut down while we were walking in the sunshine on the Mazatlan beach, and thought, maybe we could just stay here as a family for a long time! So glad you found your wonderful Bill and he found you!

  2. You may have told why you decided to move to Seattle instead of staying in Arizona after your divorce, but I don’t remember reading it. Had you visited there before? It seems like such a different climate and all, but maybe that’s what you needed.

  3. Thank you for this much needed boost today. I needed it!
    Happy Anniversary to you two and wishes for a blessed Merry Christmas!

  4. This is beautiful. It is both happy and sad. You and Bill both looked great when we met you in Tombstone. God knew what he was doing when he put you two together. I have been to Seattle (my daughter lives there) and live in Arizona and have been to Bisbee. We love living in Arizona and if we leave while alive, it will be by force. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

  5. I came to Seattle because I had a sister here and we lived together for several years. Yes, the climate was very different, but I needed to put distance between me and my former husband to keep me from taking him back. Again.

  6. Happy Anniversary! Merry Christmas! Wishing you a marvelous, healthy 2018!

    Beautiful story. Sometimes it seems the fog is mental and learning to seek that light works wonders.

  7. After the Fire is a wonderful book to keep on hand for gift giving.
    Your novels to me are represented in those red flowers on the book cover; blooming to your fullness of life “after the fire”.”
    Thank Bill, God and FitBit!

  8. Happy anniversary, Judith! And many more!
    Looking forward to meeting you in March at the Tucson Festival of Books. I tried to meet Randy Wayne White in FL, but met up with Bill Lee, famous Red Sox pitcher instead. A character in RWW’s Doc Ford series is based on Lee (Tomlinson).
    I did have the fortune of meeting a local writer, Susan Crandall (Whistling Past the Graveyard, optioned for film rights, and The Flying Circus. We enjoyed a breakfast together talking about books and writing.
    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

  9. Thank you for the lovely Christmas letter. Happy anniversary! It seems your personal letters always feel “personal”. I enjoyed reading the Fog poem again, feeling grateful that my fog time has past, indeed, I enjoy the sun.
    Blessings,prosperity and good health as you move forward into 2018.

  10. Beautiful. This really hit home this morning. My niece is having to make the decision today to let her husband go to God, or keep trying to keep him here. I can’t imagine having to do that. They have gone thru the last 8 years fighting to keep him alive. So young, 48 years old. He had cancer at 29 and the radiation treatments damaged his heart, lungs, and liver, and they just can’t function any more. She is definitely in a terrible fog. I hope there will be light for her again.

    • Juanita Pratt, it is so hard to let a loved one go. My heart goes out to you and your niece. My husband kept “hanging on” (he had 7 cancers in 15 years). When he appeared to be in a coma, I told him he could go. I told him I would miss him, but it was time for him to leave this world. Within 2 minutes he breathed his last. I still cry, but I was glad I could say “good bye” to him. I send my love and energy to you and your niece. Death hurts not only the spouse, but other family members too.

  11. Hope you have many more years together. Your mention of fog brought back memories of the 50s and 60s in Glasgow ( Scotland) White shirts became grey the air was so bad with Smog.

  12. Wishing you and Bill a very Happy Anniversary! Prayers for many more anniversaries and memories.
    Wishing your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


  13. First, Happy Anniversary to you and Bill.
    You have earned the light.
    If there was ever a phrase that should be cast in stone that would be it.
    Merry Christmas, Judy

  14. Happy Anniversary to you and Bill! I love your fog poem. I’ve been there, too. I think I like your fog analogy better than my mother’s saying, “You’ve got to kiss a lot of toads before you find your prince.” I kissed a couple of toads that would have been better left alone and even fell into the trap of taking him back – again. My dearest hubby and I have been married for 14 years this month and I’m so glad we found each other. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  15. Totally understand the fog and happily divorced for 24 years! It took me ten years to get past “the only good man was a dead one” attitude. I have thoroughly enjoyed not being responsible for any one besides myself since my children grew up and left home, although it was a big adjustment at the time. Congratulations on your anniversary, wishing you many more!

  16. 2016 was a fog for me. I had an angina attack in February, my husband lost his job in March, and he died in November. I know my family celebrated Christmas, but I am in a fog about what we did. Christmas was a blur, a time I wanted to forget. Then this year arrived – life insurance, lawyers, my son moving to Virginia, selling my home, buying a condo, dealing with contractors and homeowner groups- another foggy time! Things are beginning to clear and, like you, I am moving, I have earned this light.
    Congrats on 32 years of love!

  17. Hope you have a Merry Christmas with many more to come. Even though I’ve lived in Fl for over 25 years it’s still weird to have the temperature go up to 80 degrees. My one cactus plant that has survived is starting to bloom. So pretty. Hope we all can have a good 2018.

  18. I always appreciate your sharing of joy, love, and heartache…regardless of how the circumstances started out, they always bring encouragement to the days ahead. There is no doubt of your strength and I feel them easily through your stories, and your poems. You are on my “Bucket List” of people to meet, not just because I love your writings but because I admire you as a person.
    I wish you and Bill a Happy Anniversary…along with a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  19. You are a blessing to so many of us, Ms. Jance. Thank you for sharing with us. Happy Anniversary. On Dec 26, Larry and I would have been married 30 years. (He died earlier this year) You and Bill are smart that y’all married and have lived your lives to the fullest. One never knows how long we will be together.

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