Reparations and Love Songs

27 years ago
27 years ago

When Nanci and I first got married I remember getting all doe-eyed and telling her how I couldn’t wait to grow old together. It was a lovely sentiment to be sure, but “old” was still a fairly remote concept and therefore a rather safe longing.  Last week, we celebrated our 27th anniversary of unrelenting wedded bliss (right dear? 🙂 )and although I would hardly classify us as being old, it is no longer remote. We now have one grandson and another on the way, all three of our children are adults and these days Nance and I can sometimes be found watching my youngest son’s band play in nightclubs I played in 30 years ag0.  30 YEARS AGO!

There are other indicators: I now need glasses to read what I’m typing into my computer,  and last spring I suffered a bout of shingles. “Shingles?!” I protested to my doctor, “isn’t that something that grandparents get?” He just smiled patiently and waited for me to process what I had just said.

Judy, Max and the new chair.
Judy, Max and the new chair.

This past weekend offered up another reality check. Our friend Judy has spent the last 21 years of her life in a wheelchair after a bell tower at a summer camp collapsed on her leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.  Nanci and I have known Judy since before the accident but in recent years moved into her neighborhood and so we get to see her more often than we would  otherwise.  Judy’s house is along the path of my daily walk with Daisy (our Jack-Russel fondly referred to by our neighbors as Crazy Daisy.)  I noticed Judy’s house was in desperate need for a fresh coat of paint and mentioned to her that I used to paint for a living and would happily take care of that for her.  The conversation led to a longer conversation about several mounting needs including new shingles for her garage roof, repairs to her modified van, and a new wheelchair that would cost about 5 grand.  Ugh.

Judy's shingles - not like mine.
Judy's shingles - not like mine.

Well, silver and gold have I none, but I can paint, and I can sing. So we put on a fundraising concert at a nearby church. My staff all got behind it, the church donated the space – we advertised it on Facebook and on April 18/09 about 400 folks showed up to hear a few songs and we raised 7 thousand dollars which covers the cost of the chair, the paint, and the shingles.  (a local roofer has donated his labor to do the work.)


So last weekend I finally got around to starting to paint Judy’s house.  I decided to start by scraping the many windows which were in terrible shape. It’s the part of painting I never did like so I thought I’d get the worst over with right off the start.  I got out my ladders, sharpened my scrapers (it’s been awhile) and tackled the worst with gusto. Four hours later…. four hours!!… and I was totally spent. I could hardly put enough muscle behind to scrape off a cornflake.  What’s with that? I used to be able to do this for 12 hours no sweat. I must admit, I was a little shocked. I packed up my gear and dragged myself home to soak my aching muscles and bandage my blisters.  Sigh…

Window scraping.
Window scraping.

So, there’s no denying it – bodies age and change. But as I reflect on my marriage, our family and our history, I realize that love changes as well.  Over time we (hopefully) begin to shed sentiment and live into the reality of shared life and all that love requires of us. Like physical work, it takes a certain muscle to accomplish, but unlike physical work, its capacity grows over time rather than diminishes.

My favorite poem says it best:

Still, there’s a certain scope in that long love
Which constant spirits are the keepers of,
And which, though taken to be tame and staid,
Is a wild sostenuto of the heart,
A passion joined to courtesy and art
Which has the quality of something made,
Like a good fiddle, like the rose’s scent,
Like a rose window or the firmament.

excerpt from ‘For C’  by Richard Wilbur

Actually, I have a good start at a new song using this poem. I really had hoped to have finished it but alas, couldn’t make it happen. Later – I think it’ll be a good ‘un.

But I do want to leave a couple of songs to mark our anniversary.  The first is one I wrote years ago, at the beginning of our journey.

The second is one I discovered on-line literally on the morning of our anniversary. It is written and recorded by one of my favourite songwriters Pierce Pettis and speaks rather eloquently of that “long love” that Richard Wilbur wrote about. I was able to contact Pierce to ask permission to post the song and he graciously consented.

Here’s where it gets mushy: I love you Nance – thanks for the many great years and the great kids.  If I could do it over – I would.

Song: Alone Tonight by Steve Bell.  Click Here for lyrics.

Song: That Kind of Love by Pierce Pettis | from the album That Kind of Love  | Available at or on itunes.

That Kind of Love | Pierce Pettis

Can’t be bought or sold or faked
That kind of love
It always gives itself away
That kind of love

It’s wiser that the wisest sage
It’s innocence makes me ashamed
till I’m not sure that I can take
That kind of love

Pride and hatred cannot stand
That kind of Love
Greater love hath no man
Than that kind of love

It won’t be kept unto itself
It spreads it’s charm it casts it’ spell
till no one’s safe this side of hell
from that kind of love

Love rejected love ignored
Held in chains behind closed doors
Stuff of legend and of song
And deep down everybody longs
For that kind of love

Some people never know
that kind of love
Though it only takes a child to show
That kind of love
Widows smile and strong men weep
And little ones play at its feet
The deaf can hear the blind can see
That kind of love

Love triumphant love on fire
Love that humbles and inspires
Love that does not hesitate
With no conditions no restrains
That kind of love

So how can anyone deny
that kind of love
knowing every heart is measured by
that kind of love
Even stars fall from the sky
everything will fall in time
Except those things that cannot die
That kind of love
Oh may you be remembered by
that kind of love.

11 thoughts on “Reparations and Love Songs

  1. Dear Steve and Nanci,

    Congratulations on your 27th wedding anniversary!

    David and I celebrated our 27th anniversary last Friday on exactly the same day as yours. That’s incredible that we have the same anniversary day.

    We have 3 boys. Two are adults and our youngest is 16 this year. We didn’t get the girl but God gave us boys for a reason. I think it’s because I always seem to have so much energy.

    We have special memories with our marriage too. And I also said to David I want to grow old with him. Not that we are that old.

    We both did 2 marathons last year within 2 weeks of each race. David is a marathon runner and I’m a marathon power walker. Our first race was in Chicago and the 2nd race was in Washington. The races was our goal to celebrate our 50th birthday last year.

    We have many things to thank God for. We count our blessing daily.

    We thank God for your gift of music. Thank you for sharing it with the world.

    We live in Toronto and we hope to see you again soon.


  2. I love to read your thoughts & I have a great respect for you. But I have to admit something about Alone Tonight. Every time I listen the CD …which is often…I think, Oh man do I have to listen AGAIN to Steve wanting to ‘be with’ his wife!! 🙂

    So were all 400 actually painting with you??!! (re: facebook comment)

    Take care and God bless you and keep you always!

  3. Great stuff Steve , thank – you my friend. Karen and I celebrate our 27th this coming Friday and I ‘ve found myself thinking of , even singing to myself , Mark Heard’s “Mercy of the Flame” – another gem to add to the 2 treasures you’ve listed. God bless you and Nancy , may He keep you always and forever His – and each others !! We love you and thank the Lord for you , Nancy , and your family. Lord willing we’ll see you in Saskatoon this December !! Peace of Christ to you!!

    Funny you should mention Mark Heard, it seems to me that Pierce writes in a similar manner. He has his own voice obviously, but there is a family resemblance for sure. Thanks Peter. Hope to see you in Saskatoon – Steve

  4. My sincere apologies for misspelling Nanci’s name…..twice. Also , I ‘d be remiss in not mentioning that our lives have been incredibly blessed with 5 children and growing – with one married already and another next year !! Sorry again Nanci !! 🙂

  5. Congratulations Nancy and Steve on your anniversary. Keep the friendship, courtship, romance and marriage alive. These are important elements in ones life. The Lord bless and keep you. With all our love and prayers.
    Brian, Bryce Wiley and their families and me Their mom Gail Gladue.

  6. Hi Steve,
    It has been years since you and Dave came to PA to one of the retreats. Time does fly, Mark and I celebrated our 27th in May and we now have 2 grandchildren, they are Christina’s, it still boggles my mind that our kids are all grown up and having kids of their own. I must say snuggling those grandchildren is the best.
    Think of you often and God willing maybe our paths will cross again.
    We have moved back home to NH so maybe sometime.

  7. The song ‘Alone Tonight’ is really touching. Loved it. Thanks.

    The song ‘That Kind of Love’ is a very endearing one. It will be great to hear you sing it also.
    It was great to hear it and know that you chose it for your wife to hear..Congrats on the 29 years as well.

  8. Hi Steve

    We ever met, though I have thoroughly enjoyed you in concert in San Carlos Cal. I’ll be forever grateful to my cousin, Allen Johansen, for introducing me to you and your music.

    I was moved by your tribute to growing older and to the fluid nature of married love. Like you (and everyone else, I assume), I could never have guessed back then (for us, 26 years ago) the changes, the pains, the pleasures, the surprises that waited us as we started out so blindly and so in love.

    Also like you, I am an avid enjoyer of Pierce’s music. My favorite guy, however, is Terry Scott Taylor, and he has a song on his ‘Little Big’ EP called ‘Sweet Companion’ that expressions so well what you have said just as well.


    Scott [ aka FriarScott ]

  9. Hi Again

    Of course, I meant to say, “We have never met.” I didn’t intend to sound so vaguely poetic as I started my post.

    Sorry for any confusion

    Scott (again)

  10. It was wonderful to hear your great news. Not only of 27 years of marriage but another little grandchild on the way. You are so very blessed and when reading you thoughts, I felt like you were in our livingroom sharing with the John Knox Group who love both you and Nanci dearly! We are excited to have you back in the area next month and wish and hope that we can share some time together!
    Let us know if that is possible, Lorann

  11. I was introduced to your music a few years back and thoroughly enjoyed you in concert in Kelowna back then. We’re excited to be seeing you again in October.

    Somewhere along the line I discover that you and Nanci are good friends of my cousin, Judith. What an incredible blessing you have all been with the house and chair and everything. She told me to check out your blog and read about the story.

    Bless you so much for being His hands and heart. I am on the other side of the country and haven’t seen Judith in years, but I am blessed to know that she has such wonderful friends. God bless you guys. 🙂


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