There was a song in their hearts that warm summer evening in 1962, the marriage vows voiced tenderly. “For better or worse … in sickness and in health,”
Months before, the couple had struck an unexpected chord, a harmony that would sustain them through the years — decades before both were diagnosed with cancer a year apart.
“I had been playing the organ upstairs at the church,” Duane Farris of Pasco said as he recalled his weeknight practice time in the early 1960s, wife Verona now at his side. “She came into the sanctuary — just her — and all of a sudden I looked at her and the atmosphere changed.”
The emotions were surprisingly mutual.
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“It was like the twilight zone, surreal, and God was in it,” Verona said, remembering how she’d raced upstairs from a friend’s baby shower to answer a ringing telephone and had immediately felt a connection with Duane sitting nearby. “I didn’t know he was feeling anything.”
It wasn’t as if the 20-somethings hadn’t seen each other before. They were both in the college-age Spokane church group that was constantly on the go, including three weekly live radio broadcasts. The two would sing on the programs, head out to restaurants as a group and were always in the mix for weekend roller-skating.
Whenever I worry the cancer might come back, a song will run through my head.
Duane Farris of Pasco
But as Duane’s fingers nimbly moved across the organ keys that night, the hymn resonating in the empty pews, he was touched in the depth of his soul.
“In that moment I felt God told me, ‘This is the woman you’re going to spend the rest of your life with,’ ” Duane said, reflecting on how he didn’t question the experience. “I told God, ‘OK, I’ll ask her out.’ But I didn’t know she was feeling the same thing.”
When Verona reappeared upstairs at the end of the evening, Duane offered to take her home. The drive took them above Spokane where they paused for the view.
“We drove up into the foothills and we were looking at the lights in the city and I popped the question,” Duane said, admitting it was pretty spontaneous.
Fifty-three years later, their marriage plays on.
But for 78-year-old Duane, the retired Fluor Daniel plant engineer, and 76-year-old Verona, the retired Community Action Committee program manager, life brought new meaning to their early “for better or worse” wedding vows.
“It brings you closer together, especially when you’re going through the same type of disease,” said Duane, a two-year survivor of prostate cancer. “With prayer, we hold each other up. We’re not afraid to talk to each other.”
There have been surgeries for both — Verona for uterine cancer — and they’ve even shared oncologist Dr. Sheila Rege at Northwest Cancer Clinic in Kennewick where they both had radiation treatment.
“I did 26 radiation treatments and not a speck of sensitive skin,” Verona said enthusiastically, remembering the tender care the team provided during treatment.
For the couple, it has been quite a journey. But through it all, they have experienced peace credited to their faith.
“Whenever I worry the cancer might come back, a song will run through my head,” Duane said as he and Verona chorused their favorites.
And on that list, one hymn their hearts continually sing: ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.
If you have a story idea contact Lucy Luginbill: 509-551-21991, @LucyLuginbill
‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
1. ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
and to take him at his word;
just to rest upon his promise,
and to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him!
How I've proved him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust him more!
2. O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
just to trust his cleansing blood;
and in simple faith to plunge me
neath the healing, cleansing flood!
3. Yes, ‘tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
just from sin and self to cease;
just from Jesus simply taking
life and rest, and joy and peace.
4. I'm so glad I learned to trust thee,
precious Jesus, Savior, friend;
and I know that thou art with me,
wilt be with me to the end.