At left, James Hulin Kelley and Beverly Kelley recite their wedding vows on Dec. 17, 1955. At right, 65 years later, they are pictured surrounded by their loving family. Top photo, from left, sitting, is Mary Moore, Debbie Driggs, Mr. and Mrs. Kelley, and Jimmy Kelley. Standing, from left, is David Kelley, Johnny Kelley, Kathy Brazier and Tommy Kelley. Sadly, the family patriarch passed away on Dec. 19, 2020, at age 87 from complications of COVID-19, just two days after James and Beverly celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

Nowadays, it’s rare to see a couple stay married 10, 20 or even 30 years, but my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary was Dec. 17, 2020.

However, this would be the last one they would celebrate together.

On Dec. 1, my dad, James Hulin Kelley Sr. started getting sick.

With a 30-year history of heart problems, 87 years old, living with atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure, we assumed it was just time for the routine hospital visit.

However, this time, my dad had COVID-19. The next two weeks, he was in the emergency room twice and then, on Dec. 15, he was admitted to the intensive care unit.

My 84-year-old mother, Beverly Kelley, stayed by his side as long as the hospital would allow her to visit.

She had COVID in September and recovered well, so chances were lower that she would catch it again.

She was willing to take the risk to be by his side. His health started to decline and he was on 100 percent oxygen the day before their 65th anniversary.

We were all praying he wouldn’t pass on that day.

Mom wrote an anniversary card to dad and was able to visit him in the ICU on their anniversary day.

My sister bought a card for dad to give to mom and asked what he wanted to write in it.

All he said was, “Happy Anniversary, Love Papa.”

All throughout the day when someone talked about my mom, he would quote a scripture he remembered in the Bible, “When you find a good woman, you found a good thing; and I found a good thing.”

The passage he was referring to is in Proverbs 18:22 “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtained favour of the Lord.”

The message he wanted everyone to know over and over that day, was how much he loved his wife of 65 years. He knew he found a good thing, and in his last days on Earth, he wanted everyone to know how thankful he was for her.

The family had an anniversary event planned, but had to cancel due to his sickness.

We were blessed to have our dad two days beyond their anniversary. He passed on Dec. 19, 2020.

COVID may have been the main factor in my dad’s death, but we will always be thankful for the 87 years we had him and the great example of how a marriage of 65 years is still possible if you just realize when you’ve found a good thing.