My friend John was married to his wife Sally for 55 years. They moved from Pasadena and bought their home in Manhattan Beach more than 40 years ago where they raised their two children Ann and Kendal. The first time I met John I was working behind the counter at Martha’s Corner on 22nd Street in Hermosa Beach. At 18-years-old I was sure I knew everything about love and marriage and I was rambling on to a co-worker. With my back to the customer, who had just walked in, I was ranting about how all men at one time or another cheat on their wives and the only difference between a cheating husband and a non-cheating husband is an ignorant wife (I know, pretty harsh stuff for an 18-year-old.) Meanwhile, the customer, who was sitting at the counter patiently waiting for his soup didn’t say a word. “So, How long have you been married?” I turned around and asked him. At 72-years-old, John told me that he had been married to his wife Sally for more than 40 years. “Have you ever cheated on your wife?”

At that point, perhaps the manager should have been called and I should have been fired. But instead, John answered the question; “Nope, I have never cheated on my wife and I don’t ever plan to.”

I quit working at Martha’s 22nd Street more than 10 years ago but that hasn’t stopped John and me from engaging in our weekly coffee dates. During our almost 15 years of friendship, John and I have seen each other through a lot. Through the years we have exchanged opinions, worries and advice and have learned in detail what our families mean to us. I learned early on that there is no one that meant more to John than his wife Sally.

Sally, an artist in everyway, enjoyed coloring her hair bright yellow and would never wear an outfit that didn’t stand out. When her children were teenagers she would offer their friends free art classes, in which they would forget about their troubles at home and focus on the beauty of paint on canvas or papier-mâché. Years later she did the same for her grandchildren and their friends.

John, an engineer who typically dresses in a button up and long pants, is the antithesis of his wife. As much as he didn’t understand her need for stacks of art books and cluttering habits, John always said that his wife brought the color into his life. In their retirement the couple enjoyed visiting museums and watching films and eating at their favorite restaurant, Phillipes.

However, a couple years ago, Sally’s heart began to slow down and as John would tell me during our coffee dates, she didn’t feel up to doing much anymore and he was now in charge of cooking the dinners, shopping and keeping the house in order. “She doesn’t like my cooking,” he would tell me week after week. “But most of the time she’ll eat it anyway.”

A few weeks ago as he was by her side, John finally had to say goodbye to the women, who decorated his life for 55 years. “I knew it was time and I saw it coming but it was still hard to say goodbye,” he told me.

While I still have my opinions about marriage and I am disheartened at the statistics that 10 years for a marriage is considered a “long time,” it is because of John that I still believe in the vow “till death do us part.”

John and Sally weren’t the perfect couple and together they suffered losses and challenges that would have broken-up other couples, but they made a choice to stick with each other, to love each other and to come home to each other every night. Their marriage and devotion to one another was an accomplishment few people are able to say they have achieved.

One day I believe they will meet again and when they do I picture Sally with her canary yellow hair telling John that she can’t stand his chicken dinners, but even so she will tell him that she wouldn’t have wanted to eat it anything else.