Seventy years ago Felix Calleja and Rita Grech stood at the altar of the Hal Lija Church of the Transfiguration in Malta and took their marriage vows, promising to be true in good times and in bad, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health; till death do them part.
War determined that these vows would first be tested in the bad times.
Nazi bombs destroyed many of their engagement presents the night before the wedding and rained down near their village during the ceremony, shaking the church and terrifying the congregation.
The raids recommenced in early evening and continued through the night, forcing Felix and Rita to spend their first night as a married couple in a cramped and damp cellar, sheltering from the menacing bombs with a dozen or so frightened friends and strangers.
Starvation times followed, forcing Rita, now expecting her first child, to stave off hunger pains during the night by eating carob seeds.
Then came the sleepless nights as her new-born cried for food she could not supply.
Shortly after war’s end Felix and Rita experienced a new depth of pain with the loss of their second child who died at 10 months old from the poor health conditions of post war Malta.
Migration, resettlement a world away from Malta and raising eight children in a liberal society that challenged the values of conservative Malta, all tested their vow to stay together in bad times.
But good times eventually arrived and largely stayed to this day.
Their eight children carved out successful careers for themselves, married and produced 24 grandchildren who, in turn, produced 17 great-grandchildren – at the last count.
They are now in the first year of their ninth decade and, although they have the expected ache and pain, companions of old age, both are in relatively good health.
The couple are also of sound mind, have good eye-sight and mobility, even if a little restricted.
But their greatest asset is their family of 49 descendants who are close to them and are always ready to keep their good times rolling on.