Have you ever spoken those words? I have. Once. As a very young, very naive 20 year old. I promised to spend the rest of my life with my husband. Easy enough when you are so very young. When you can't see around the next bend in the road. When you have no idea what life will bring. When your dreams are bright & shiny, and your life together is filled with hope & promise. But then, reality starts to seep in. Maybe in the form of financial problems....a lost job or problems with budgeting. Perhaps personality traits surface that were well hidden prior to the marriage. Maybe issues such as infertility start to strain the relationship. Just having children changes the dynamics of the relationship & can cause stress on the marriage. The death of a child or parent may strain the relationship further. And then, of course, that part about "In sickness & in health?" Almost a guarantee. One of you will very likely have to care for a sick or injured spouse. I used to think that love was what held a marriage together. That was 28 years ago. Now I realize that love alone is simply not enough. Perseverance, strength of character, resolve, forgiveness, empathy, unconditional love, reliance on each other, compromise and many, many more. All of these play a part in making a marriage that will go the distance. My husband is not the same 21 year old I married. And I am sure I am not the same 20 year old that he married. But I love the 49 year old man I share my life with, and wouldn't trade him for that 21 year old version for anything. We share a rich history, a bond, that I will never experience with another human being.
Yesterday was yet another funeral. This one was for a 60 year old woman who died after 8 years battling Alzheimer's. Her husband stood by her throughout the illness. As this horrible disease took the woman he had shared 40 years with and reduced her to a shell of the person she had been. When she could give nothing, make no contribution to their relationship, still he stood firm, upholding the vows he had made 40 years ago. The beauty of that is so bright as to be blinding. The ugliness of the disease was overshadowed by his devotion to his wife & his continued, unconditional, love for her. He is an example to his friends & family of what true commitment is about. My son is getting married this fall. I pray that as he & his bride speak their vows, the words will be seared upon their hearts. My prayer for them is not a perfect, painless marriage.....but a strong & courageous one.....one that will stand the test of time.