A real love story for Valentine’s Day

Published 8:29 pm Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Back in August, we got some bad news about Daughter No. 2’s transmission — her Altima’s transmission, that is. It needed to be replaced, and the price tag was hefty.

Wiping his hands on a towel, our longtime mechanic, Lyn Hutcherson, told us he could get on it in a couple of days. First, though, he had to go to a doctor’s appointment.

“Just the routine kind,” he assured us, knowing full well nothing is routine for cancer patients in quasi-remission. It turns out, he got some bad news of his own. The kind that makes a faulty transmission seem like the most insignificant thing in the world. 

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Still, our stellar mechanic went on to finish that repair in what would be the twilight of a four-decades-long career. Just days before Daughter No. 2’s first classes at Co-Lin, he handed her the keys and made the new college girl promise to call him if she ever needed anything.

“Like you would your dad,” he said, waving her off. He’s just that kind of a guy.

And even with a Copiah County tag on his car, Lyn is still the kind of guy Lincoln County would call a local boy — a Brookhaven High School graduate and the youngest of a family’s 10 kids, with roots spread all around Enterprise. At 63, he’s built his own business, taught in Hinds Public Schools and served well in the Gideons International Bible ministry. But on the eve of what doctors are telling him is his last Valentine’s Day with June, his wife of 43 years, he told me his proudest life accomplishment is their marriage.

“Not many make it this long these days,” he says.

The couple’s oldest daughter, Virginia, describes her parents’ pairing as a rare one: “People think nowadays that you go into a relationship and you can always just get divorced if it doesn’t work out. They never once thought that was even an option. They never thought of being anywhere other than being with each other. I know they had their differences, but they never argued in front of us.” 

Her parents have weathered several health storms, but cancer has been the refining fire in the Hutcherson love story since 2017, when a surgeon removed a football-sized tumor from Lyn’s kidney. “For me, the cancer is a gift,” he explains. “It’s given me a whole new group of people to meet, people who have diseases that make mine look like a hangnail. It’s given me a chance to witness to them.”

But Lyn realizes what his recent terminal diagnosis means for his family. To help June prepare for the future, he closed his shop and sold all his stuff — equipment, tables, even a trio of hotrods he kept for retirement restoration projects. He didn’t want her to have to worry with the shop’s contents or with thieves.

“When I’m gone, there will be an empty metal building out there. Unless they want the dirt off the floor, there is nothing else to get. So she has no concerns,” he says, pointing toward the east side of their property. 

June admits watching him let go of the tools he’s been amassing since 1974 was tough. “It hurt,” she says. “It hurt to see him have to go through that.”

In December, Lyn and June renewed their marriage vows before a crowd at Shady Grove Baptist Church in Hazlehurst. “We realized that we’ll never see 50 years, something we had looked forward to celebrating one day,” Lyn explains. When June suggested a simple after-Sunday-service ceremony, he “was all over it.”

“It just gave me a chance to say one more time what I meant. I was serious about it 43 years ago, and I’m still serious about it. When I look at her right now, I don’t see much different than the teenage girl I married. They’re both one and the same.”

Forty-three years ago, the newlyweds spent their weekends beside Fair River, sliding down soapstone banks. These days, they’re enjoying long morning talks over coffee. But Lyn is experiencing more and more fatigue. Hospice care began Monday.

“Some people don’t have their spouse as long as I’ve had him,” June says with acceptance. “God’s allowed me to be married to him all this time, to take care of him, and to love him. This is something we’re going to have to just go through together.”

For months, Virginia and her sister Sarah have watched this last chapter of their parents’ marriage — with its radiation treatments, experimental drug regimens and walking canes — unfold. They’ve seen their dad lovingly plan for their mom, and their mom summon strength she didn’t know she had.

From the sidelines, Virginia shares a fitting Valentine’s Day sentiment, one you won’t find on any Hallmark card aisle. 

“It’s brought them closer together, even though they’re about to be further apart than they’ve ever been.”

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.