A time to remember

The table was set, the crystal glasses polished, fresh flowers bloomed and love was all around when Alan and Elaine Ernst celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at a special lunch at Calvary Cessnock recently.

The couple met at their local Baptist church at Dungog, also in the NSW Hunter Valley.

“Apparently he had his eye on me but I couldn’t stand a bar of him,” recalls Elaine, although she’s no longer quite sure why that was. For his part, Alan was nothing if not persistent.

“And I’m so pleased he was!

“He loves to tell the story of how he took me out on 28th of May and he married me on the 23rd of June … the following year,” she smiles.

The couple spent the next 34 years running a dairy farm and raised two children. Any day now they will become great-grandparents for the first time.

Life on the land, droughts and the hardships of health and life together have all brought Alan and Elaine closer.

“We worked together, raised the children together, milked cows together, got the hay in together, went through droughts together.

“He was right there beside me, and I was there for him. It’s give and take. A relationship can’t be all one-sided.”

As their special milestone loomed closer, Elaine asked home manager Dyanne Johnston about having lunch with Alan to celebrate the day.

“I just thought they could bring an extra meal on a tray,” said Elaine, with hallmark humility.

But Dyanne and her team had other ideas. Everyone associated with the event went all out so that Elaine and Alan, who has mobility and dietary issues following a stroke some years ago, could share a day to remember. They set up an intimate space in a sunny corner at the home, catered with a special texture-modified meal that both could enjoy, and made sure Alan had some flowers and a card at the ready to give to the love of his life.

“It was just so beautiful – I welled up,” said Elaine. “I didn’t expect anything like that, it was way beyond what I was expecting. We really did appreciate it. And the meal was so beautiful.”

Dyanne says many of the home’s residents can go out and connect with family and friends.

“Elaine didn’t have that opportunity to take Alan home, to cook for him and do something special to show that they still love each other. But we did.

“Every hand that touched the day brought something special.”