— Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?
Chris MacLellan and Bernard Richard Schiffer never exchanged “for better or for worse” vows.
As a gay couple, marriage wasn’t an option in Florida. Instead, they lived together and loved each other for 11 years.
They met at a senior singles party in Fort Lauderdale and were immediately drawn to each other. Differences in age, personality and upbringing did not matter.
Before long, Chris moved into Richard’s house. They repainted the walls, made new friends and met each other’s old ones. A photo in their Deerfield Beach home shows them smiling and elegantly dressed for a formal night on a trans-Atlantic cruise. Both wore tuxedos and bow ties.
Richard, who previously had survived two coronary bypasses and prostate cancer, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2011. By September 2013, the tumors had spread to his spine.
Together, Chris and Richard confronted the challenges of being an older gay couple not recognized by law, navigating a system they feared could rob them of their ability to care for each other in sickness and in health. After all, legal rights regarding death are intricately entwined with the privileges granted when people marry.