for better and for worse
I wanted every day to be that perfect. I did.
Who wouldn’t? The sky was impossibly blue, the cottony clouds perfectly plump. The sun was warm and sweet. The lilies in my mother’s garden were in full bloom. The church pews were lined with beaming friends and family, just as the laughing dance floor would be packed later that night. The music was beautiful, the readings were perfect, the sacrament was shimmering.
Most of all it was him. He was the best person I knew. He was beyond what I had hoped to find in a husband. He was my partner in everything that mattered most. He was the reason that day was perfect.
When I looked around the reception later that evening, I remember thinking this looked like heaven. Everyone we loved, gathered in the same room, together for an instant.
And the two of us, on the edge of everything that awaited us.
It could not get better.
. . .
If you suspect this is going to take a sharp turn south, you’re right.
If you assume this is going to trudge out some tired old trope about how we knew nothing on our wedding day, you’re wrong.
Because what happened to our marriage is what I suspect happens to many marriages. It tumbled into unexpected hard places; it got bruised; it grew stronger over time. It knew how to love well at the beginning, in the fresh ways you can love at the beginning. And it started to learn how to love better in the middle, in the seasoned ways you can love in the middle.
But then it got dealt a wallop. The gut punch that knocks the breath out of you.
I want to say this is the worst. I want to scream at the sky that this has to be the worst. But I know this was never the promise.
What I do know is this. The vows said better and worse. It was not a multiple choice question. We could not select an ideal scenario. We could not pause on perfect.
From the second we spoke our vows, better and worse were woven right into the fabric of this calling. We could never tear them apart without destroying the entire underpinning. We signed up for what we have received. I know we are far from alone.
. . .
Today is not perfect. It is so far from any pale shadow thereof that I cannot believe we are still breathing some days. Let alone loving each other.
But the astonishing truth – the better truth, in fact – is that I am stunned by how much more deeply I love this man. Our marriage has been transformed by the sorrow of this shared suffering, the wound that only we see in full depth in each other’s eyes.
Because I caught a glimpse of beyond in the bustling joy of that wedding reception, true.
But I saw heaven with blinding clarity when our daughters died and he was the only soul left with me in the hospital room.
Of all the things I see clearly now – the veil ripped away and the scales dropped from eyes – he is still standing there with me. His heart is torn and so is mine, and this marriage has been shaken and steadied and cemented stronger than I ever imagined it could be.
And the only way all of this makes sense is because our calling was a sacrament from the beginning. It was us and God and vows and vocation – and it burst forth so much bigger than our two small lives could hold.
Which is the only reason we are still here today. For better and for worse.