Del and Sue Justice live
in Allen, TX, a northern suburb of Dallas, about 25 miles from the small
town of Van Alstyne, where they met as children. They both
grew up in strict Christian homes, began dating during their sophomore
year of high school, and married after Del's first year of college. Right
after they were wed, Del went to serve in Korea for 14 months, while Sue
lived with her parents and worked in a drug store a job she held
for 12 years.
Retired from the insurance
business, Del now happily works in customer relations at a local Cadillac
dealer. During our interview, held 2 days before his 70th birthday,
Del shared with me the fact that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma and
leukemia. Both he and Sue spoke with me about how this news
has (and hasn't) affected their lives.
They have no children.
I didnt care for Del. He was dating someone else at that time,
and I can remember in our English class, he would just really pester me.
Id think, "hey, I wish youd leave me alone." Finally,
I think my brother-in-law says to him, "hey. I think you can
get a date with that gal right there if youll play your cards right." So,
we had a little family wiener-roast-type thing, down at my parents;
and I guess that was our first little date. I learned to like him,
and then I learned to love him. Which I still do.
Del was raised up
by a very dedicated Christian mother. And he was respected, and
I thought, well, "hey." I was raised in a Christian
home, and I knew that my Mom would be very picky about who I dated.
So I thought, "hey, thisll be a pretty good shot to start."
He was a nice guy, and basically when we did start dating, we just
enjoyed each other so much that, like he said, four years we went steady.
As seniors in high school, I knew this was what I wanted, and I think
there wasnt any question but what Sue knew that as well. As
I told you, I went to school at Oklahoma City, and back in those days
I didnt have a vehiclea 200-mile, one way tripand it
was three different highways, so you had to get at least three different
rides if you were gonna make this trip. Id come home almost
every weekend the entire school year cause I just couldnt
stay away from her.
Were the other people in your class getting married
at that time?
I would think some were, but
most did not get married as young as we did. But dont be misled
by that. Let me get into a sort of a moral situation here. Even
though we went steady four years, the first time we were ever in bed together
was our wedding night. Now, that, back in those days, much differently
than it is today, of course. But as Sue mentioned earlier, I was
raised in a Pentecostal church, and my mom was a very strong Christian
person. My dad did not attend church, but was a very strong disciplinarian
and when they said "you do this," or "you dont do
that," thats the way I did it. And so many things were
a sin, or so many things were
wrong, particularly from a Pentecostal
standpoint, more so than a lot of other religions. So there were
certain things you couldnt do, and one of em, you just didnt
have sex until you got married, and so we did not.
Was there peer pressure about that?
Not like the kids have today, no. Really, I could say there was
no peer pressure, wouldnt
you say so, Del?
No; it was understood. They knew how strong. Ive always
beenand Sue has too, but particularly meIve always been
a very strong-willed person. And it doesnt make me any difference
what somebody else is doing, or what somebody else thinks, as long as
I think its right, I will
either do it or not do it depending on my upbringing and what I
think is right.
What did it mean to you to be married at that
time? How did you define a marriage, and has that changed in 50
Everything changes. But the purpose, the intent, the thought hasnt
changed. We went into marriage, both of us, never questioning
that it was going to last. There just wasnt a question.
Back in those days, if you got a divorce, particularly a woman,
was sort of an outcast. That was never a consideration, never has
been a consideration for us.
So we just entered
this thing; this is just the way its going to be, and the Lord has
just blessed us and given us all these many years, and there never was
any question about whether were gonna be married, and once we were
married we were going to stay married. Theres just never been
anybody else. I went to Korea, as I told you, went into the service
shortly after we were married, and went to Korea, was gone fourteen months.
And I would say, wowninety, ninety-five percent of the guys
over there were seeing someone while they were there; I never was unfaithful,
never been unfaithful to Sue in my life. Thats just the way
we do things.
And all the time he was gone, I wrote him every
day, and he wrote me every day. Wasnt always a lengthy
letter, but it was a letter. Letter from home.
How do you define a marriage?
Well, my definition is, I don't
think it's a 50/50 proposition. My definition is, it's a 100/100
proposition. In our case, each of us--and I know Sue will tell you
this same thing--each of us has always been more concerned about the feelings
of the other one than we have about the feelings for ourself.
And I think that's really been a key to the successful marriage we've
had. I want her to be happy, I'm more concerned that she's happy,
or that she's doing what she wants, you know, and she feels exactly the
same way. Neither of us are selfish in any respect, when it comes
to that. And I think that's been a real key.
If I told you that wed never had some
words, that would not be true, so Im not going to tell you that,
but wow, so minor. What weve had have been so minor. And I dont guess Ive
ever left for work a day in my life without kissing her, the last thing
as I leave, and telling her I love her. Ive never arrived
back home at the end of the day without doing exactly the same thing.
And its not just because its the thing to do; I tell
her I love her because I love her. And our love is as strong right
now as its ever been.
And I think we show our appreciation for each
other. Like if, well, Del might just do a little something that
Ive asked him, and I never fail to thank him. I mean, a lot
of spouses take that for granted; "hey, thats your job."
But I always make a point to thank him for something that I might
ask him to help me do, or if he does something that I really appreciate.
So I think appreciation, and respect, mean a lot.
What is the biggest challenge youve
had to face? And how did you face it?
About a year and a half ago I found out I had
a malignancy, I have lymphoma and leukemia. Sue will tell you this,
the day I got the report back I came home, and she said, "well, howd
your doctor visit go?" I said, "well, he says Ive
got leukemia and lymphoma." Thats kind of the way I answered
her. And I have been, as the old saying goes, strong as horseradish
through all of this. Ive probably got as much faith as anybody
Ive ever met.
When it comes my time to go, I
know what God will do. I know He will take me. But He has
blessed us through this year and a half. Even though Ive got
a sickness. I really wouldnt know that I had a sickness if
they didnt tell me. And I think largely because Ive
had such a positive attitude, and Sues had such a positive attitude.
Were trying to prepare in every way we possibly can. But
you know, I go for days without even realizing or thinking that I have
a malignancy. Im working full time, 40 hours a week, or about
37 and a half hours a week. Happy-go-lucky, you wouldnt know
I was sick if they didnt tell me, and so
that has been a challenge
but weve handled that challenge, with Gods help, in such a
way its been almost routine and easy.
Sue, you said youre doing what you
can to think about how you would handle being alone.
I wonder what you can tell me about how
youre managing to do that. Whats involved for you?
Well, first of all, I would not probably keep
this size house. It would be too much for me to take care of because
Del does the yard work. I dont really need this size house. And, oh, gosh. He pays the bills, he takes
care of all that. So Im needing to learn, or Im beginning
to learn to handle all the financial situations.
Particularly in a situation without children
who would typically, I think, be the ones to help with that
Exactly. And then were, even now,
going through this, well, are we going to stay in this house? Are
we going to stay in Allen? But as long as Del wants to work, I want
him to work as long he wants to work, and as long as he feels like working.
But we havent made the big decision of where we would relocate,
or what we would do in that situation. My family lives pretty much
50-60 miles from here. But, me being the youngest, I have to think
about this, too: you know, my oldest sister is 86, and shes
already alone. My brother and I are the only ones that have spouses
left. So theyre all to an age thatand who knows, I might
go before any of thembut are they going to be able to be there for
me? Of course they have children, but who says that nieces and nephews
are going to be the one thats gonna come by and take care of you?
So again, were just trusting the Lord, and faith, and wisdom
that well make the right decisions, you know, possibly in the near
future, and it depends on how Del continues to feel.
We do know this for a fact, that the Lord wont
put more on us than we can bear.
We know that. So if shes left alone?
Yeah, that would be the sad part for me. Im ready to
go. I dont have any problem with that. I know where
Im gonna be when I leave here
but the sad part would be the
ones who are left behind. So, yeah. If I had my preference,
I have said for many, many years, "I hope Sue goes before I go."
The reason I hope she goes
before I do, so she wont have to be sad. Let me
be the one to be sad. And what Gods plan is for our life,
we dont know.
But we do know this:
that He wont, as Ive said, put more on us than we can
bear. We have a good friend down in East Texas, lives down on the
lake. Big ol Cajun boy. We love him dearly, and hes
got a way of saying that, he says, "the Lord wont put more
on your wagon than you can haul." And I think of that every
time I say something along this line. So, yeah, if we had our preference,
wed go outta here and the Lord would take us both at the same time.
If He chose. But probably that wont happen, and so one
of us more than likely is gonna be left alone. But well be,
Ill be prepared mentally, and shes working toward it. (They
Just recently we celebrated our 50th
anniversary, and I was telling someone that we were about to celebrate
our 50th anniversary. "And,"
I said, "we dated four years." She said, "so you all have
been together 54 years." I said, "no, maam. We
dated four years, and weve been married 50 years." Basically,
thats pretty much the way I still feel about it.
That togetherness is from the wedding day
Thats exactly right. Thats
So youre saying that togetherness
is defined by, really, having made that step. And thats when
togetherness truly is realized?
Right. Who says sex is the whole thing
that youre supposed to enjoy about a marriage? So I think
about all the fun times Del and I had for four years. Im not
gonna set here and say that we werent tempted, that we didnt
have some desires to want to have sex. But we felt very strongly
that it was not right; and that
was not the thing to do before we were married.
view marriageand I told you early on in this conversation that I
came from a very strict Pentecostal upbringing, and I hold those same
valuesand what I see for the future is
weve had years
and years and years of people living together now, and outside of wedlock,
and babies being born, and all of those kinds of things. It hurts
me. It bothers me, I dont think thats pleasing to the
Lord. I dont think thats the way He intended it.
Thats just the way I view it. And so as I look further down
the road, I see a further deterioration of this kind of thing, even maybe
to the point somewhere down the roadmaybe 30, 40, 50, another 100
yearsthere wont even be such a thing as marriage.
Do you see any upside to the changes that
have taken place?
I havent seen an upside to it. And
Id love to see an upside, but I think that now, when people run
across an obstacle, or a challenge in their marriage nowadays, I think
the general feeling is not to figure out how
were going to overcome this, or that we should
overcome this; this is a bump in the road. This shouldnt be
the end of things. This is just a bump. And there are gonna
be bumps. And I think they should try toinstead of throwing
in the towel, so to speak, when they hit that first bump in the road,
as so many of them are doing nowadaysI think they need to sit down
obviously, there has to be compromise, there has to be understanding,
there has to be love, there has to be care, there has to be concern
all of those things have to be ingredients in this. But you oughta
try to work these things out.
We didnt used
to have divorces. Not like to any degree like we do now. And
so, I think theres just a deterioration in this respect. And
instead of trying to work it out, they say, "why, Im not going
to put up with this. Ill just go get me somebody else."
And thats just a sad indictment, I think, against our society.
Youre projecting that it may not exist,
but do you think that the legal idea of marriage is still necessary?
(He stops and thinks.) Necessary? Well,
I dont know that its necessary, but I certainly think thats
the way God intends it to be. I think its an ordinance, ordained
by God, I think thats pretty clear in the Bible, two become one;
and I think he makes that very clear, or the Bible does, and yeah, I think
its important to sign the paper and enter into this thing as, "this
is a permanent arrangement. Until death do us part, thats
the way it is." So I havent compromised my thinking on
that. I know Im in the minority nowadays.