This evening listening to the bride, Lisa, do a short speech, I found myself reflecting on our own wedding, our marriage of 24 years. And I decided it's time to write my husband an open letter. I would do a private letter, but the last one like that I did, when it arrived in the post for him he thought it was a 'Dear John' letter and refused to open it! So here is my open letter to my husband of 24 years.
Monday is our anniversary - 24 years ago my parents were late to our wedding and we nearly got married without them, you stumbled over my name and I couldn't say 'impediment', the sun shone brightly, and we had photographs taken in Victoria Park in Ormskirk. We saw each other before the ceremony, we spent more of our budget on the photographs than anything else, and we had our reception in our own home on a brilliant summer's day with dear friends and close family alongside us.
You know I love you, but I believe even now, after 24 years of marriage, you still don't know how much I love you, even though it was me who proposed to you. People talk of marrying their best friend - on the day of our wedding I don't know if I did marry my best friend, I don't know if I knew what a true best friend was at that stage in my life. Sure, I loved you, I was in love with you, and I felt so very lucky to be your wife - not least because it was great to leave behind my maiden name and become a Richards! And through the years we have disagreed on so many things - parenting, money, how we've lived our lives, where we'll live, and much more. And it's been worth it.
But now, after 24 years, everything is really crystal clear. I am proud of you. I'm proud that even though you have MS you don't let a chronic illness control your life, you fight through it, you force yourself to keep going, and for what? To give me your love in the way you enjoy most to give me your love, through cooking me tea, looking after me, caring for me. You put your own fatigue aside to make sure I am ok, you work on 'Bobby Power' and you selflessly put me first. Now that's love!
And more than that, I'm proud of you as a father to our daughter - you have given her such joy, laughing with her, giving your time to her, letting her know love and security, being there for her. That too is love.
It isn't hard for me to say that you are a great man. You may not have achieved great things in the world, you may not have made a huge difference in the world, but you have achieved great things in our lives, you have made a huge difference to me. And it is true to say that you are a gentle man, in the true sense of the word - a man who is caring, thoughtful and puts others' needs ahead of his own. A gentleman indeed.
So, Rob, thank you. Thank you for 24 years of your unending support, caring and thoughtfulness, so many years of your love.
Now, I may not be as caring, as thoughtful, as supportive as you are to me. But I love you. You are my rock, my cornerstone, my right arm (ok, in your terms, my left arm!). Without you I would not have grown and developed into the woman I am today. I doubt anyone else would have travelled the journey with me! And I love that we have enjoyed and endured that journey together, grown and developed together.
I love that you make me laugh ... and possibly moreso, I love that you laugh at my funnies too. I love your expectation that when I say to turn right you think I mean we need to turn left, when I had worked it out already and really meant right after all! I love the way we have managed to parent so very differently, and that difference has been so important in creating the beautiful, clever and independent young woman who is our daughter, 20 in 2 weeks time, and engaged for just under 2 weeks now herself.
I love how you have conversations in your head and then think you've talked something through with me, and I love how you are so determined you are right - and can win an argument on logic even when you are, in fact, wrong! I love how clever you are, and how easily you can outsmart people with a million more qualifications than you have, and I love how your dyslexia and your MS are a challenge for you to push through rather than give in to. I love you more than you will ever know, and I love that I can still, to this day, surprise you with my love for you.
And I thank you for putting up with me - and for being someone I can live with in such a way that there is little more than the way you squeeze the toothpaste for me to have to put up with! May we have 24 more years together, most of them happy, and 24 more after that, and who knows, maybe even more. I may not have known on our wedding day if I was marrying my best friend, but today I do know, I definitely married my best friend. I love you. I'm proud of you. I'm lucky to be with you. You're the best. Thank you.
Your lucky wife