Although Nate and I would have been married 41 years today, I’ve decided to officially stop counting. He isn’t here, and our real number froze just short of 40. Although I enjoyed paging through our wedding photo album today, I’m wearing his wedding band on a chain around my neck, a reminder of his absence. Even so, it wasn’t a difficult day.
To the contrary, it was a day of boundless energy like I haven’t experienced in months. The hours ran out long before my pep, and a lengthy list of chores-in-waiting got done: organizing the basement, doing laundry, baking, washing windows, cleaning house, taking down the screens, writing letters, pruning the house plants and paying the bills. A year ago I would have looked at that list and set it aside with a deep sigh, unable to even get started. And because of the difference between then and now, I know my heart is healing.
One of the reasons for this measurable progress is, I believe, the kindness of friends. Today’s mail had a handful of greeting cards and letters in it, written with love as others remembered our anniversary. Most of them promised prayer for me today. Such thoughtfulness moves me deeply and is probably the reason everything turned out well.
During a call from Linnea this morning, we chatted about wedding anniversaries. The date is important to only two people, unlike birthdays, graduations or promotions. An anniversary is a party-for-two, a small event with great significance. But because Nate is gone, my annual celebration has to stop.
Yesterday I pointed out to Birgitta where her father and I spent our short but delightful honeymoon: at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago. Nate was in law school, and I was teaching. Four days was all the time-off we could get, and we made the most of it. Happy honeymoon memories flooded my mind today, and I even caught myself humming.
No marriage is without its rough places, though, and we had our share. The fact that we made it 40 years is a testimony to God’s involvement in the relationship. After all, marriage was his idea, and as a bride and groom recite their vows, he’s there, too. Because he wants couples to succeed, he’s available for counsel and encouragement all along the way and doesn’t have to be asked twice. Nate and I called out for rescue several times in our years together, and God always restored our relationship.
Interestingly, a marriage often becomes stronger after surviving a period of struggle. It’s as if the marriage muscle gets built up through the exercise of hanging-on-no-matter-what. None of us can predict what life will throw at our marriages, but one thing is sure: God is rooting for us through all of it. He’s the third member of every union, and if we invite him to the anniversary celebration, he’ll always be willing to change that party-for-two to a party-for-three.
“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)