"Life is Wonderful"

Dr. Ray Pritchard

Several weeks ago I printed the text of a message called Curing the Itch Mites that Marlene and I shared at the Couples Conference at Word of Life. When Nancy Eckardt of Sheboygan, WI read it, she wrote me this testimony about her marriage of 58 years. I loved it because it is a touching tribute to a godly man who is now in heaven. With her permission, I am passing it along to you.  

Dear Ray,

I loved the thoughts and ideas you and Marlene shared on the “Itch Mites.” It’s all so wonderfully true.

I was married for 58 years to a most wonderful man. We loved each other so much that we rarely had many disagreements. He was an extremely busy physician and I learned early on that his patients loved and needed him as much as I did. He never spoke an unkind word to me or to anyone - never took the Lord’s Word in vain - did his best to take care of his work and his family - sometimes at the expense of his health.

We raised four wonderful children who are all happily married to their first spouses. They realized early on too, that quality time was better than quantity time with their Dad. On normal days he was often so late for dinner that we couldn’t wait and his dinner sat on a hot tray until sometimes 7:30 or 8 at night. Sunday and holiday after-dinner time at the table was spent with him asking questions of them to suit their various ages (ranging over 11 & 1/2 years) - they could hardly wait for “question time” with Dad. I remember especially when our youngest daughter was around 4 and 5, the question always asked of her was, “What is the capital of India?” which she always knew was “New Delhi”. The older children would laugh and clap when she got the answer right.

We spent 2 weeks “up north” every summer at a housekeeping cabin swimming, fishing, and having wonderful family time. We also took two vacations in a motor home - one at Yellowstone Park in ‘66 and one at Expo ‘67 in Montreal. I remember when driving back from Montreal around Lake Ontario on Fathers’ Day, the oldest daughter (an artist already at 18) made a huge sign of 8″ x 11″ papers taped together which read “Our Dad is the best Dad in the World - Honk when you read this sign” and fastened it to the back of the motor home unbeknownst to him. As cars would pass us and honk and wave, he was completely baffled and the kids were in hysterics laughing. Finally the wind started blowing off some of the papers and he stopped to see what was going on. They all still remember that day with great glee.

He ended up having several heart attacks and two by-pass heart surgeries. He retired at almost 69 years, having been told that he could no longer work full time. His last 20 years were spent playing the piano for Rotary, singing in the church choir and in a barbershop quartet, giving much time to our church once as president, twice as a consistory member, giving time on Church committees, working for the Red Cross and other charitable organizations, and playing cards with his friends. We enjoyed Bible classes together - sometimes he was the only man among about 15 or so women which didn’t bother him a bit. His sense of humor got us through many rough times. The children have now convinced me that I should write down some vignettes relating funny episodes about him and stories that he told. I am now doing that and enjoying it.

At age 89, he suffered another heart attack, recovered after a couple of weeks, and tried to get back to his usual routines which wasn’t working too well. He was getting quite frail and I realized that his time on earth was drawing to a close. My prayer to the Lord was three-fold: that the Lord would take him quickly, that he wouldn’t have to suffer, and that I wouldn’t have to put him in a nursing home - he loved our home of 53 years (spent a lot of time watching the birds in the yard.) About four months later he was showered and shaved and getting ready to go Church. I found him dead on the bathroom floor and decided he just took a short cut to heaven. My children were all so wonderful and supportive - at his funeral my three daughters sang and my son gave a eulogy that was beautiful. I couldn’t have been happier with the way things turned out. some people were amazed and surprised that I couldn’t even cry because the Lord had answered my prayers and had taken such good care of all of us for so long.

I’ve been without him for 2 & 1/2 years, use a walker because of arthritis and other minor physical problems, live in an assisted living facility, and get lots of help from a niece who lives nearby, a new friend from Church, and from my children none of whom live in the state but who visit frequently. I am so happy in my Church - which two years ago left the UCC and is now very happily with the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination. I look forward to each day and thank the Lord for it. Life is wonderful.

I hope I haven’t bored you with this long missive. I had to share after enjoying your “Itch Mites”.

Nancy B. Eckardt

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

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