Twenty-four years ago yesterday I wore a white dress, white shoes, a touch of jewelry and my best smile. A nervous smile, I might add. I remember something my mother once said about sitting across the breakfast table at her husband and thinking, "Who is this man?" Sure, I knew the man I was marrying, but did I really know him? Ah, but twenty-four years later, I know him quite well!
It was a blustery fall day, the red, orange and yellow leaves swirled about, but the sun was shining and my heart held the highest hopes for a new life with my new partner on a journey I could only imagine. "For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health"--I repeated the words and so did he. I was a bundle of nerves, my palms were dripping wet; I knew what I was saying but somehow couldn't really focus on the words. All eyes were glued to the two of us, as if we were actors on a stage; one false move, one slip and perhaps they'd be laughing at us.
Much of that part is a blur but often through the years I've thought about those words we were asked to repeat. They have such meaning, such significance, and yet for many they don't seem to mean much at all. Considering the divorce rate, how could they have meant much at all? My husband and I have been through good times and bad times ("for better or for worse"); we've never been rich, but we've been poor. I translate that one to ("for poor or for poorer"). There has definitely been some sickness, mostly mine, and thankfully my husband has seen me through it. These are things many people never think about when they're standing across from each other wearing their Sunday best, gazing into each other's eyes, hand in hand, before God and family and friends. The future is down the road, out of sight. Their focus is usually on the present, their special day of celebrating, partying, dancing, smiling and loving each moment.
Those holy vows meant something to me way back then and they mean even more to me now. I take promises very seriously. We can't know what kinds of hurdles life will throw in front of us on that road that leads to the future, but we have to be ready for them. And holding onto your partner's hand you're saying, "I can get through anything as long as you're beside me."
"For as long as you both shall live."