This article is the 29th in a series profiling couples who have been married for at least 35 years. As sociologist Mark Regnerus writes, “Young adults want to know that it’s possible for two fellow believers to stay happy together for a lifetime, and they need to hear how the generations preceding them did it.” It is also important to see that marriages are not always happy all the time, but commitment is crucial.
Jim and Betty Crase always wanted a family. Two years into their 45-year marriage, she became pregnant, but miscarried at 12 weeks: “It was a crushing blow. I felt like a failure.” Jim had a similar reaction. They could not understand why God had let that happen. Friends from church shared their anguish, and told them about their own miscarriages at a time when people didn’t talk about such things.
A year later, Betty became pregnant again. She felt her baby move and had heard a heartbeat. Then she miscarried at 16 weeks. Jim and Betty questioned God. It seemed so unfair. Betty became depressed: “If Jim hadn’t been there for me, I would have lost all hope.” Jim and Betty prayed together often, and Jim held Betty when she cried.
During her third pregnancy, Betty and Jim feared another miscarriage. When her water broke at 29 weeks, she learned she was having twins. Doctors whisked the newborns—Anthony and Stephanie—off to a children’s hospital shortly after birth. They weighed just three pounds each. The next day, Anthony died. Betty was still across town in the other hospital. Betty, Jim, and their families “barraged God,” praying that Stephanie would survive.
Doctors sent Stephanie home early as an infection swept through the nursery. Betty had not even held her baby with her bare hands. She wondered how she could mother this tiny one. They celebrated finally having a baby, but were overwhelmed with the needs of new parenthood. Jim and Betty prayed constantly.
Betty became pregnant again. Jim’s job required frequent moves, often with little notice. In her ninth month, Betty learned they were moving when their real estate agent called: “I needed faith to remember that I loved my husband, so I wouldn’t kill him.”
Jim and Betty moved two weeks after Jason was born. He screamed the whole way to their new town. Stephanie, then two, vomited repeatedly. The dog wouldn’t stop barking. They moved on Halloween, and trick-or-treaters descended on them within hours of their arrival. Jim and Betty turned out the lights and hid, to no avail.
Jim and Betty were away from all their family and friends, and Betty was home all day with two small children. Betty described this as the “hardest year of their marriage.” But their isolation encouraged them to depend on each other. Betty tends to talk, while Jim is quieter. Betty says that is helpful because he anchors her. And he makes her laugh: “That has helped us through thick and thin. And he puts up with me.” Jim said, “We complement each other. … We’re a good team.”
The years that followed included many more moves, another miscarriage, and the births of daughters Allison and Vanessa. With their frequent moves, the family became a close unit. They always did things together. Jim and Betty often sacrificed material things so Betty could stay home when their children were young. For them, family was always number one.
Jim and Betty renewed their wedding vows this Valentine’s Day. They marveled at how far they have come, and look forward to what’s ahead. Come what may, they are a team.