Reverend Dr John and Shirley Yarde. (Picture by Dominique Bonnett.)
You are never too old to learn and after almost 38 years of marriage, Reverend Dr John and Shirley Yarde are proof of that. John told EASY magazine that that was one of the keys to staying together for more than three decades.
And while three decades to some may seem like a lot, for the couple it’s not enough and they’re looking forward to many more years of married bliss.
One thing that has remained constant throughout their journey, is their unending love for each other.
EASY magazine sat down with the couple at Ocean Two Resort, St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, last weekend to get some insight on what kept their love so strong. Their love story we found, is one to be admired and one from which many lessons can be learnt.
The couple met in church when Shirley, then 16 years old, caught 20-year-old John’s eye.
“We met at Cave Hill Church of the Nazarene and that was about five years before we got married. I was involved with the youth and I observed she would be at the 11 a.m. service with her mum, but she would never be a part of the youth sessions. So I invited her to be a part of the sessions.
John confessed that his invitation was two-fold: “One was because I had my eye on her and two, I wanted her to come to the youth sessions. She surprised me with her response. She told me she would come, but I would have to come for her,” John recalled.
Shirley though, was a stickler for following her parents rules. That meant there would be no dating until John did what was right. In those days that meant John had to write Shirley’s father a letter, expressing his interest in going out with his daughter.
“I told him he had to write a letter because that’s what everyone else did.
I was very glad he wrote it. Before he wrote it though, he came to the house and I know he was coming so I hid. My mother answered the door and called my father and he told him he had to write the letter. I was 16 at the time. In my mind I wasn’t talking to anyone until they did what my parents said. But he turned up, he was one bold man,” Shirley said with a loud chuckle.
But up until then, the only thing close to a letter John had ever written was an essay, so he delayed in writing it. There were some events which transpired after though, which prompted him to hasten his steps in writing it.
“In those days once the pastor saw you talking to a girl too often he notified her mother. And Reverend Walters asked her mother if she was aware that I was liking her daughter. . . . I remember bringing her home one night after a youth session. This particular night I was by myself bringing her home after 10 p.m. and who we would meet but her father, and he asked her, ‘This is what you going church for?’. That’s how things were interpreted back then. You couldn’t walk a young lady home from church being noble. That was before the letter. So all those things sped up the process in getting the letter to him,” he said with a laugh.
The couple were married five years later. But Shirley added, “From the time we started talking he would say you are going to be my wife. For five years he was saying that. If John had his way we would have been married at 17 or 18.”
Married life for John and Shirley back then was a learning phase for both, but a phase that brought them even closer together.
“Any stage of moving from infancy in anything has its own little difficulties. You learn to perfect things along the way. You make mistakes, you’re really getting to know each other culturally, socially, bringing together two very different personalities. It was a stage of development, correcting mistakes and so on. But we had some really good times,” John said.
Shirley agreed on the good times and “some really rough times. I would cry because I was young. Through a lot of prayer and with friends who were married before encouraging us, we made it,” she said while agreeing with her husband that church was always an integral part of their lives back then and now.
As devoted Christians, their faith was tested and tried during the first ten years of their marriage when they faced difficult challenges . . . challenges that without God present would have broken the strongest of couples.
“We were together ten years before we had any children. That was not by design . . . . Medical science suggested we give up. At our tenth year of trying the doctor told Shirley don’t come back. Some people were a little insensitive during that period as well. They probably meant well, but didn’t understand the weight of their conversation. So it was also difficult mentally,” John said.
Shirley had remained quiet during this section of the interview and was gazing over the balcony at the ocean in deep reflection.
She spoke softly as she said, “One month in particular I was in the bathroom crying. John came to me and he knew why I was crying, obviously. He said if we had a child or not he would still always love me,” she said while gazing lovingly at her husband.
But through faith, prayer and a miracle from God, on that ten-year mark, according to John, “Shirley started to put on some unexplainable weight”.
That weight gain was a son, named John who was followed in under two years by James. John, a gospel artiste, was born on December 13, 1989 and James, a chef, followed July 31, 1991.
“We were happy to have the boys because it was a long wait,” Shirley added.
Their son John, who is also a pastor, was married recently, while James is still at the courting stage.
If it’s one thing John and Shirley hope to show their sons and other young married couples and those preparing to marry, is that marriage is no joke and requires full commitment.
“I want them to learn that it’s a process that once you start, there’s no retreating from the process. It’s a learning process. I’m still learning Shirley. The process of learning never stops.”
“They’re new lessons at different stages of your life. Shirley the teenager, the young adult, now at this stage will bring different responses and different reactions. They’re some things you know well, but the learning never stops,” John stressed. “The God factor cannot be ignored.”
Shirley told EASY magazine she wanted her sons and other young couples
to know that they should never stop loving each other.
“In a relationship there has to be trust. Be patient. Of course, you have
to love the person. Be a good listener. There’s always a time when you don’t want to be touched, but you still touch. Share with each other. Remember that person is your soulmate,” she added.
This advice and more they have applied to their own relationship.
Shirley added, “Love and lots of prayer keeps us together. If you don’t love a person from the beginning then you are going to want out every chance that you get.”
John ended the interview on a comical note but stressed that it was some advice that all couples should take.
“A guy said he was married for 48 years and said he always made sure he had the last two words in his house and he said it worked for him for 48 years. He said his last two words were always “Yes, dear’. And that served him well. I suspect it would serve all men well. I’m still working at it,” he said to shared laughter with all in the room. (DB)