“I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” These were some of the words that John and I said to one another forty seven years ago on the day we were married. We also said them last week at the end of Mass. Father announced to everyone that we were celebrating our wedding anniversary and he called us to the front of the church. We were then asked what we said to one another on that day so many years ago. We answered that we vowed to love one another in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer. Father gave us a wonderful blessing and the congregation applauded as we proudly made our way back to our seats.
Later that day, I thought long and hard about those vows. Forty seven years ago, as we stood at the altar in our beautiful wedding attire with stars in our eyes, we had absolutely no idea what those promises would come to mean. We were blissfully in love with not much money in our bank accounts. But it didn’t matter because we were so crazy about each other that we felt could conquer the world. Those first few years, we lived very modestly, the first year being in a one room basement apartment in Richmond, Indiana. We lived on mac and cheese, hot dogs and pizza. My mother used to say, “When you’re in love you can eat beans and still be happy.” And it was true. We hardly ever argued and life was so amazing. Things got even better when we found out we were expecting a baby. Our little family was beginning to grow.
We still lived modestly in a two bedroom duplex in Fairfield, Ohio but it was plenty of room for our new addition. But now our finances were really stretched. We needed new furniture, a newer car, and lots of baby items. Our love still conquered all the challenges but it was time for a job change with a bigger salary and that meant a move to a new city away from our family and friends. And we were pregnant again. It was a frightening time because the pregnancy was in jeopardy and I had to have complete bed rest for two months. It was one of the hardest experiences as we didn’t know if our baby would survive. Our faith, which had been put on the back burner, kicked in, and with the help of new-found friends who prayed for us and encouraged us, and with the healing power of God, we were brought through that “fiery trial”. (1st Peter)
Another difficult pregnancy and a sick baby rocked our world once again. We were coming to grips with the fact that our marriage vows meant that we had committed to go through the rough places together, that with the help of God, we could do this. And on and on it went; lots of illnesses, sometimes very serious ones, broken bones and trips to the emergency room, money problems, difficult decisions, loss of our parents, children learning to drive, meetings with teachers and principals, graduations, children leaving home for college and racking up debt to pay for it. But we somehow made it through, only slightly scathed with grey hair and worry wrinkles. Now we have grandchildren who bring us more joy than we could ever imagine in our “old age”. It seems like a reward.
Sometimes I feel that we were that young couple just a few short years ago. How did we get here forty seven years later with all that occurred in our lives and still be madly in love? I have to say that the promises we made to each other weren’t always easy to keep at times. Sometimes they seemed impossible. Sometimes staying sane was # 1 on my to-do list. Some days I would cry as I didn’t know how I could make one more dinner for three always hungry boys and make it to ball practice on time. There were days I was so tired I thought I would fall asleep at the wheel picking up the kids from school. And there were many times that my wonderful husband drove me crazy. Even being married to a saint can be hard!
I now see my own children with many of the same challenges and I pray for their marriages and their family life every day. I know how hard it is, how mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting it is, but I also know it can be done.
There is a visual in my mind of a beautiful fabric that represents our marriage through the years. Many of the threads are of bright colors reminding us of the joyful times in our relationship, the births of our children and grandchildren, the weddings, the amazing family and friends who were always there for support. Some threads are a deep gray in color which tell the story of difficult illnesses, broken relationships, deaths. But there is a thread of gold running through that represents our faith. This thread has become thicker and more prominent as the years have passed. This is a reminder of the presence of a loving God within our marriage. He is the one who has given us abundant graces and strength all along that allowed us to remain faithful to those vows declared many years ago. In a few short years, God willing, we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. It truly will be a golden anniversary!