What Matters

As we travel on this dirt road we call life, we will encounter ruts, twists, turns, forks in the road, fallen trees, and countless other obstacles and choices which will shape the very fabric of your being.  It is during these times, that we come to realize what is important.

It was another sleepless night.  I tried my best to lay still so that I did not wake my wife who was lying next to me.  Her deep breathing told me she was in a sound sleep and probably enjoying some strange adventure that came with her escape to dreamland.  I almost envied her ability to crawl into bed and go to sleep within fifteen minutes of her head resting on her pillow.  I, on the other hand, would lay for hours trying desperately to turn my mind off so that I could settle into a dreamless world of darkness for maybe two or three hours.  Some nights, like this one, I knew that there was a good possibility that the sleep I so desperately craved was not going to come.

Carefully, I turned to face my wife and gathered my pillow under my head so that I could just look at her.  The nightlight created just enough of a glow that her face seemed to shine in the darkness.

It reminded me of all the times we danced to the slow country ballads played by bands in the dimly lit clubs when we were dating and getting to know each other.

  As we swayed to the music – her body pressed up against me – her arms draped softly around my neck – her eyes fixed on mine – a coy smile that made me just melt – I feel in love.  And as we approach our thirty-ninth year together and I lay here looking at her in the darkness – I still experience the same flutter of my heart – the dryness in my mouth that prevents words from forming – the warmth deep within my soul that fills me with joy – and I fall in love all over again.

My mind begins to take a familiar journey.  I see us planning and executing a wedding in just one week – moving into our first home together in Hawaii as she began life as a Marine’s wife – packing and unpacking as we moved from one duty station to the next over the years – finally retiring from the Marine Corps and fulfilling my promise to build her a retirement home in Georgia – making that last move and settling into life in the civilian world.  In these many years together, there would be wonderful times of joy and laughter – there would be times when we would cry and lean on each other for support – there would be times when the silence and anger would threaten our happiness – there would be times when all we wanted to do was hold each other so that our love could fix everything wrong in the world.

I learned to hide my fear so that she would never know just how scared I was or at least that was the lie I kept telling myself.

But time, like many things in life, is a two-edged sword.  The beautiful memories are also peppered with the realities of life.  The peaceful look on her face as she sleeps hides the fear we experienced when we learned she would need open-heart surgery.  From that moment on, it seemed we were spending more time at doctor appointments, more surgeries, more procedures, more tests, more nights praying by her hospital bed then I can count.  I learned to hide my fear so that she would never know just how scared I was or at least that was the lie I kept telling myself.

So, tonight, as I watch the covers raise and lower with each breath she takes in her deep slumber, I will relive every moment – I will experience every emotion again and again – I will fight the urge to laugh out loud or to cry uncontrollably – and I will fall in love again.  Because, what is important right now – what matters right now – what will enable me to function tomorrow without a single minute of sleep – is just one simple thing.

We are still together.


Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.

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    • Laurie – Thank you for your kind comment and, yes, I shared this with my wife. She cried and we hugged a long time. Also shared it with our daughters so they would know how love should be expressed.

  1. What a sweet and tender story, Len. It reminds me that we are all in the exact place where we are meant to be at all times, even at difficult times. Recognizing each other’s struggles and being grateful for each other’s presence in what makes life truly happy. Thank you for pointing out what really matters.

  2. In the uncertainty of these times, quality of life means so much more than a litany of possessions.
    Len peels back the froth and noise to reveal his inner soul, love for his wife.
    The courage of a different order to that exhibited on the battlefield is evident in every word.

    • Tony – Thank you for your kind words. It is truly encouraging for a writer to read this kind of review.

  3. Len – You and your wife have 32 years on me and mine, but the parallels are uncanny. What a beautiful story. I hope you are able to sleep these nights, but if you can’t, perhaps we can chat. I’m usually up as well thinking about this and that, and watching my better half sleep.

  4. Len, this is such a very tender story that resonates with love. You also masterfully crafted with your words what being in a marriage means. Man and wife sh\aring all of life together. Thank you, Len, for sharing pure beauty and love with us. Take care and stay well.

  5. A sweet story that I endorse.
    You don’t count the advice manuals on this topic.
    My wife and I have been together for 59 years and I feel like saying that love has a fundamental part.
    But life is not a pret-à-porter and serenity does not depend on how many torments and conflicts there are within the couple, but on how much it is possible to manage and resolve them in the best way. Loving well is not easy, but building a healthy and satisfying relationship is possible and realistic. It takes the commitment and the will to choose each day, for those who are, in mutual respect for one’s individuality. And then there must be enthusiasm, desire and honesty to build a relationship that makes us satisfied and emotionally secure.
    Ultimately, what leads us to continue being together is because we are really well together. Because we have both understood that the other brings an immeasurable, unique and precious value in our existence. And this is enough to go on and to continue to reaffirm our love, day after day.
    When you live a story that instills a deep well-being, the difference is felt and perceived. At any age.
    Thank you|

    • Aldo – Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. I especially like “what leads us to continue being together is because we are really well together”. What an awesome way to sum up what I wrote. Congrats on your 59 years, my friend.