Jennifer and Rusty Veary make a handsome newlywed couple. They share a deep commitment to God and to each other. If you ran into them, you wouldn't notice anything unusual.
But if you got to know them, you might wonder why they went through with their wedding in August. Rusty, an energetic 50-year-old, married a woman who has a deadly, incurable and infectious disease. Jennifer, 32, is HIV-positive.
On a purely pragmatic level, their marriage defies logic. Conventional wisdom says the wedded state should confer a long list of attractive benefits—a lifetime of companionship and emotional support, a partner to share activities and interests, someone with whom you can raise a family. However, for Rusty and Jennifer, many of these benefits will be shortlived—and some, such as child-bearing—will be nonexistent.
Clearly, something else is at work. Rusty says his wife's condition doesn't matter to him—that we're all one day closer to the end of our lives. His nonchalance about marrying Jennifer, knowing he has little chance of growing old with her, flies in the face of what we've been taught to value in marriage. Talk to him about all this, and he gets philosophical. He believes nothing in life is guaranteed, yet God's plans will not be thwarted.
"People ask me why I would want to marry someone with a death sentence," he says. "You have to look at the heart of a person, not the outside shell—although Jennifer has a beautiful outside shell."1