As seen in Chicago Tribune Prime Time
They found great love, not once, but twice. Terry (93) and Ben (92) VanderNaald, who have been married for 32 years, were both previously in happy marriages. Terry lost her first husband suddenly when he was 58; Ben lost his first wife after a long struggle with cancer when she was 54.
Several years later, they met each other at church and gradually began spending time with each other. “We talked a lot, and it just felt like we were connecting,” said Terry. “We had a nice time getting together.”
Less than a year later, they decided to marry. “It felt like we were compatible because we had the same ideas about church, family, and so on. I knew we could be together,” said Ben. He added that they both had experienced happy marriages and were comfortable giving that another try. “I knew we could find love and be happy again. I knew we could start again,” he said, adding that his first wife had, from her death bed, directed him to find a woman and marry again.
Terry said that when they decided that they would live in Ben’s home, she talked to each of his adult children. “I said to each of his kids, one by one, that I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy for them to have me walking in their mother’s footsteps. I told them that the house they grew up in would always be their home. Those kids are so good to me. They hug and kiss me. My kids are the same with Ben. They know it’s a good marriage. His kids are wonderful to me, and my kids love Ben.” In addition to being loving and accepting, their combined family is enormous, with 11 children, 21 grandchildren, and 28 great-grandchildren.
Terry attributes their three decades of loving matrimony to their shared strong faith. “We both come from the Christian Reformed Church. That’s important to us. We’re believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we’re very close to the Lord. We read the Bible twice a day. We both like that. We have a strong connection to God, right there,” she said.
Both Terry and Ben agreed that remembering their first spouses is natural and comforting. “It’s nice that we can talk about them. She was a dear wife to Ben, and mine was a dear husband to me. They’re gone, but our first marriages are still within us. They’re not forgotten,” said Terry.
Ben added, “They’re gone, and we started a new life. We still love them and think about them, but we have a different life now, and we enjoy it.”