An Unexpected Covid Romance Part II

Cindy Bower – During all the confusion of the covid pandemic, life was in a tizzy. My job at the dental office had closed down for six weeks and when we went back, there were still so many unknowns. The news everyday was so scary and negative, with the pandemic and election disagreements. One of our daughters had lost a good friend to suicide and we had two family members with serious chronic illnesses, both of whom died during this time.

My friendship with Margaret was a high point in all of this We shared knitting dilemmas, worked together on family history projects and loved playing duets on her beautiful grand piano. We would text, call, and visit in her home. One night she confided in me that being a widow was very lonely. Of all the people I knew, Margaret was one of the most proactive and involved I knew. She exercised religiously, volunteered in many capacities, had lunch with a ladies group from Curves for Women, and had close ties with long-time friends in her our church. She was always positive and upbeat when I spoke with her and was very involved with her daughters, grandchildren and their little ones. I was shocked when she was actually keeping a granddaughter’s pet for a time while they were in transition. She would organize picnics at her mountain property and could have been known as a true “gatherer” getting people together who otherwise would have stayed home and done nothing too important.

In all of this, I realized that with all the family and friends and activities and purpose in her life, there was still a void. These important relationships and things that filled her time still left an emptiness that I hadn’t been in-tune enough to realize as it wasn’t part of my own experience.

Margaret – “My information about Alfred through the years came mostly from my parents and high school friends. Once when Howard and the girls and I were passing through Charlotte, my aunt told me Alfred lived there and we went by and met his wife Wanda and visited briefly. I did not see him again until 2010 at my mother’s funeral.  We talked briefly at the cemetery and I met his new wife Barbara (Wanda had died).”  

Linda – “My husband was drafted into the army and we lived in the state of Washington while he served. I had taken business classes at the local Junior College; so I was able to get a job as a secretary in a doctor’s office while he was in the army. We enjoyed friends and a good life until I had a miscarriage while he was on bivouac. It was a sad experience. At the end of his time, we returned to California and the Lord blessed us a year later with a precious baby boy.

“My husband had several different jobs and I stayed home with my son. We decided to become foster parents. During the next few years, we had six different boys. It was a rewarding experience, but oh so sad when the boys went back to their parents or were adopted. When our son was two and a half, a drunk driver ran into my husband. He was seriously injured. It took a long time for him to get back on his feet. It was so serious that he had to have many surgeries and was not able to work for the next 40 years. While he was recovering, I was introduced to the Biblical message of the Seventh-Day Adventist. I joined the church in 1965. I fell deeply in love with my Lord. I had always loved Him, but He blessed me during my husband’s struggle to recover from the accident. I learned to rely on my Heavenly Father and my love for Him grew. I started teaching the little children in Sabbath School. I really enjoyed that.

“I prayed and I decided to go back to college and get my teaching credential. By that time, my son was starting Kindergarten and that gave me a chance to work and go to college at the same time . It was a struggle; but James 1:5 became my prayer. God gave me the wisdom to make it through and get my teaching credential. I started teaching in 1974 and continued teaching until 2006. That was the same year that my husband passed away after 48 years of marriage.

“During those years, I was so happy that Margaret and I kept in touch. She came to California twice to see us and my husband and I went to see her and Howard once or twice. We wrote from time to time. Christmas letters kept us informed about what was happening in each other’s lives and how our children were growing. Margaret was such a dear friend. She sent me books to read. I admired her because she was such a dedicated member of her church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). She taught classes to young people. We had lots in common. God led again, because Margaret is the only friend that I kept in touch with after I left NC.

“Martin (Cheney) contacted me in 2009 after 54 years of not seeing each other and not communicating with each other. His wife of 50 years had passed away. He sent me a friend request on Facebook. I am sorry that I didn’t remember him; so I did not respond to his request. I had heard bad things about men who made contact with women on Facebook. God loves to write the story of our lives. It is a long story; but eventually I responded and we got reacquainted. We were married February 12, 2010.

“I got a double blessing because I got a loving Christian husband and a very precious daughter, Sierra. She is so sweet and so easy to live with. She is always happy and positive. If I had to get a daughter at 69, she was the perfect one. I homeschooled her until she graduated from 8th grade, and high school. We worked together until she earned her AA in home economics. I am so proud of her. That was certainly not anything that I ever expected. I was taking care of my elderly sick mother. I had taken care of my disabled husband for 40 years and I had no desire no ever get married again. God had other plans. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He has plans for a hope and a future. He had planned many years ago for us to eventually meet again and get married.

Margaret – “I always kept in touch with my friend Linda. When she married Martin Cheney, she always told me what was going on with Alfred (such as when he got diabetes, when he rode his bike across N. C. and then when his wife Barbara died.)”

Alfred – “My brother Martin had told me of Margaret’s husband’s death, just before Barbara’s death. Sometime after that I called her on the phone, and we started our Corona Courtship by phone. I told her I just wanted a friend to talk to, that my wife had just died, and that I wasn’t looking to get married again. After four months of talks, I told Margaret that I would like to come to see her.”

Linda – “After we (Martin and I) were married for ten years, Alfred’s wife died and he called to tell us that he was thinking of Margaret. He decided to call her. We were thrilled. We encouraged him. Not long after he started to talking to Margaret, we got a call from Margaret. She was excited that he had reconnected with her. We shared with her about how happy we were. We encouraged her to continue to talk with Alfred. We prayed and asked her to do the same. 

“Martin and I pray every morning before we get out of bed and every night when we get in bed. When Martin asked me to marry him, I thought of how far we were from each other (he in Georgia and me in California) and how he had a special needs daughter. I had an elderly mother. He was persistent. We had never prayed together since we started talking to each other. I knew he was a Christian. I prayed and asked God to let me know if my relationship with Martin should continue. I said that if God wanted me to continue being friends with Martin, he should call and pray. Only about 2 hours later, Martin called. He didn’t say ‘hello’ or anything. He just started praying. I started crying. I asked him how he knew. He said, ‘knew what?’ I told him what I had asked God to show me. That sealed our relationship. From that day on, we prayed morning and night. Of course, we pray at many other times; however, that is our special time with each other and our Heavenly Father.

“Margaret and Alfred began to pray morning and night. It wasn’t long after that that Margaret told me that she had decided to marry Alfred. We were thrilled. God was writing a story for their lives just as He had written our story.” 

Margaret – “I had been a widow for 18 months when the phone rang on Sunday evening, March 15, 2020. I recognized Alfred’s voice immediately when he said, ‘Is this Margaret Mae Hiatt Hein?’ We talked for the better part of an hour and I was surprised at how easy it was to talk to him and how much I enjoyed myself. I told my daughters about how pleasantly surprised I had been. All night that Sunday night, I kept running the conversation we had had through my head, over and over. And all week I kept hoping he would call again, but he didn’t. So the following Sunday, I called him and thus it began.  

“In one of the early phone calls, he asked if I would go on a bike ride with him the next time I was in N.C. visiting my brothers. This type of date certainly appealed to me and I was very excited to say how much I would like that. I thought, ‘Here is somebody I could do things with after so many years as a caretaker to Howard.’ He certainly asked the right things!  

“We talked more and more frequently each week, until we realized that it would be so much easier to be married than to spend all this time on the phone. When he asked about coming to see me and going to Yellowstone, he said, ‘You know this would be so much easier if we were married.’ I think that was a proposal and I agreed.  

“It was the most natural thing in the world to begin planning a life together. We did a Zoom meeting to see each other and several Facetimes, but mostly we talked on the phone. One thing that really confirmed my decision to marry Alfred was when we began to pray together morning and night on the telephone. I felt his spirit and the goodness of his heart. I knew then he was the same tender hearted, sensitive person he had always been, only more mature and better. He often says that the Lord brought us back together and I truly feel that is true.”

Cindy Bower – One week, probably in late May or early June 2020 I missed a couple of calls from Margaret, which was kind of weird. She didn’t text me after the calls to tell me what was up. I missed another call and kind of felt a little worried that she was so persistent. When we finally connected by phone, I almost had a feeling of dread for what was coming. This even worsened when she said that she hadn’t wanted to leave a message as she needed to talk to me about something in person. She even went to the extreme of asking me if I was sitting down. I hate to admit that I succumbed to fear and thought she was going to tell me she had cancer or something terrible. Instead she was practically giddy as she blurted out she was getting married.

I’m sure you have had a moment when your brain is swirling around trying to gather information and put puzzle pieces together in a split second before knowing the rest of the story. Well, mine was! I was quickly thinking of every single senior male I thought she knew and wondered who the lucky guy was. I mean, Margaret is one of the best friends a person could have and the best wife Howard could have had, so I knew whoever it was would be very blessed to be her husband. I began thinking of Margaret’s friend who had died a few years before and her kind husband … was it him? Other possible prospects came to my mind before she told me it was her high school sweetheart from North Carolina. Well, it WAS a good thing I was sitting down. In all of our years of friendship, probably around forty, I had heard a lot of stories of Mt. Airy, and Tom and I had even stopped there on a trip to eat at her old haunt, Snappy Lunch as per her request. I had never heard any dating stories that I remember.

Margaret began telling me all about him, about how they had been visiting by phone and praying together each day and how wonderful that feeling was. She felt he was a sincere man of God and they shared a deep and abiding faith even though they belonged to different religions. She had spoken to a couple of close fatherly friends who supported her decision to marry Alfred. I have to say that it seemed like such a Southern thing for her to keep calling him Alfred, since so many of us shorten names here. I can’t really say I ever knew anyone who was actually called Alfred before, and the Alberts I knew went by Al. Anyway, on with the story …, I started wrapping my head around this whole new reality for my friend. WOW!

Margaret – “Alfred gave me a princess ring when I was 16. It might be termed a dinner ring or a pre-engagement ring. When we broke up for the final time, I put the ring away and kept it, never wearing it again. As we visited on the phone this year, I asked if he remembered giving it to me and told him I still had it. It no longer fit my right hand, so we decided to have it slightly enlarged so I could begin wearing it again. It serves as a reminder of what we began so many years ago.  

“Alfred really wanted me to have an engagement ring for our 2020 marriage. I assured him I would be content with a simple wedding band. He asked if I would just go and look at rings and then when he arrived, we would make a decision.” 

Cut to Cindy Bower – Ok, I have to interrupt here since Margaret called me and told me Alfred wanted her to go ring shopping. She said it wasn’t a ring that was important, but the relationship itself, and if I remember right, that they both had perfectly fine rings (if that was my imagination and I’m spreading misinformation I apologize). In all the years I’ve known her I didn’t remember her wearing a diamond, although she may have. We’ve played a lot of music and done a lot of knitting and sewing together, so I’ve seen her hands plenty, but maybe I was just unobservant. Anyway, my advice was to open her mind to new possibilities, and this truly WAS a new beginning. When I told Tom of her call, he said of course she needs a new ring and if Alfred wants to buy her a ring, then she should accept the gift, not push it away (I’ve taken a bit of editorial liberty there, but that is the essence of it), so I called her back and shared Tom’s comment. Tom is not one to push his opinions much, but wanted me to call her back and I did. Anyway, with or without our input (more likely without), the story continues …

Margaret – “I agreed to go to Riddle’s Jewelry store in the mall and simply look. I marched into the store, feeling a little foolish and out of place to be looking at rings at age 79. I told the clerk I was a granny-bride and my fiancé was insisting that I look. The clerk kindly showed me several ring sets and when I tried one on, I was amazed at the feeling that came over me. Suddenly, I felt like a bride and that the ring was symbolic of becoming his wife. I went to the car and phoned Alfred, thanking him for knowing me better than I knew myself. When he came to Casper, we chose that very ring set to begin our life.”  Macintosh HD:Users:margaret:Desktop:IMG_1083.jpg

Linda – “We knew that God was leading in Margaret and Alfred’s lives just as He had led in ours. God had answered our prayers and we knew He was leading. We really wanted to be there for their wedding so we could share in their joy. Even though the COVID 19 virus was going strong, we prayed and God made it possible for us to get Alfred at the Salt Lake Airport and drive him to Casper for the wedding (a six hour plus drive). He was so excited. He and Margaret talked frequently by phone as we traveled. I loved hearing their kind and loving conversations. The day before the wedding, Margaret and I fasted and prayed. God gave wonderful peace and excitement. He is in the business of building happy marriages. I give Him praise, thanks, glory and honor.”

Al, Margaret, Linda, & Martin Cheney 65 years later (from photo in Part I)

Al – “Every night when we kneel in prayer together, I thank the Lord for giving me a wonderful wife to share our last years together.”

Margaret – “This marriage has meant so much to me.  It seems that we bring out the best in each other.  I find so much happiness in sharing my remaining years with such a tender hearted, gentle man who loves the Lord and loves me.  Each day I see additional reasons why a loving Heavenly Father wanted us to be together at the conclusion of our lives.”

Cindy Bower – So even in the midst of a VERY HOT summer, during a worldwide pandemic, on July 6, 2020, friends and family of Margaret and Al had assisted in working out the details of a very intimate and special backyard wedding. Margaret’s raised beds were abundant with life, the little corner pergola was a perfect setting, the covered patio where so many of us had spent quiet evenings visiting over the years shaded a dozen or so guests. Mike and Sonalva McIntosh hosted Al until the ceremony, and also a wedding feast in their lovely home after pictures. Randy Holman, her bishop, married them and he and his wife Siri were such wonderful friends. Some of Margaret’s and some of Al’s family were able to travel safely to be here. I was honored to play harp prelude as guests arrived, including a song I love, but didn’t realize was one of their favorites, The Prayer.

Hein Cheney wedding July 6, 2020
Margaret and Al Cheney July 6, 2020

Although Al’s brother Martin didn’t share his story for this post (he doesn’t like writing), I was so glad to meet him. What a delightful person! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to visit with him and get to know him, Linda, and daughter Sierra. Sierra is one of the most beautiful beacons of light! She is so friendly and thoughtful and filled with gratitude and faith! What an example of kindness and positivity she is!

Whenever I’m around Margaret and Al they are laughing and having fun. He has an infectious sense of humor and embraced all of us here in Casper like he’s known us forever! It is a beautiful thing to see them worshipping together and serving together as well as supporting each other. When they went to North Carolina after being married, I wasn’t surprised that Al’s son told him that he had won the jackpot winning over such an amazing woman (again, my recollection of what I was told, hopefully close to exact words). Margaret loves having two more grandchildren and how blessed they are to have her!

Putting together this story has been a very tender experience for me though the project was shelved for a while. I can’t say how many times I’ve had to stop typing and copying and pasting because of the tears in my eyes. Tears of Joy! I’ve also felt like this is the perfect time for this story and it was meant to be shared now even though the process has been going on for well over a year.

These aren’t just love stories of Linda and Martin and Margaret and Al (oh yes, and by the way, it didn’t take long here in Wyoming for Alfred to be known simply as Al). This is a love story of God’s complete love for every single one of us. As we read the details and promptings and nudgings of God in these lives, we can’t help but know those things happen to all of us who desire goodness in our lives. To me it is also a promise of hope. Every single person in this story had sorrow, trials, and endured what came their way with faith. Even in their darkest hours they didn’t know what light and joy was around the bend, but kept walking in faith, letting our Creator work His miracles, but providing the fertile ground for wonderful things to happen. May we all see the possibilities in our lives and look for light even in the dark. It is there, I know it is!

Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

3 thoughts on “An Unexpected Covid Romance Part II

  1. I love this story and ALL the people involved! What a joyous blessing to find love after love! Thank you for sharing this story!

    Like

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