It’s July 22, our wedding anniversary. Seventeen years ago we stood together in my parent's beautiful garden and stepped into our adulthood together, right? We both knew when we met each other that “this time it was different” and we got serious about dealing with our shit. I want to thank you for taking the lead in that, for being the one to say it first, that we needed to have a spiritual foundation in our lives as well as identify the issues that would characterize our life together. You were right about so many things and were always willing to talk about them, admittedly sometimes for far longer than I wanted to, but you were a great communicator and I was blessed by that more often than not. Your insights are sorely missed around here.
Remember our vows? They were not particularly conventional: everything was in there - in sickness and health, good times and bad, 'til death do us part and all that. But we also promised to annoy and disappoint each other, to let each other down, to frustrate and fail to deliver and totally drop the ball. We knew who we were and how we were and we went in with our eyes wide open. And being imperfect people, all along the way, we delivered on our promises to annoy, frustrate, disappoint, anger, and fail one another, again and again.
Still, despite all that,we had no idea what a crucible our marriage would turn out to be, did we?
Do you remember that wedding we went to when the pastor said, "There are hard marriages and there are bad marriages”? The unspoken message being I guess that the “good” marriages are the hard ones?
We had a hard marriage Phil. It wasn't all bad and it wasn't anyone's fault. We were just two imperfect people doing their best to deal with the crap that life threw at them; working to overcome the worst parts of themselves and striving for deeper intimacy, hoping to operate with more kindness in relationship. But damn honey! We had 8 miscarriages, you had so many ridiculously unfair health issues, and our chosen profession, though rewarding, was incredibly stressful and we had some seriously difficult employers. I struggled with Seasonal Affective Disorder for far too long and just as we were starting to turn a new page in our life together, the unthinkable happened.
In more ways than I fully appreciate that’s when our marriage really started to get good. When everything became crystal clear all the accumulated bullshit of the previous years - the petty grievances and the real ones - were dropped by the side of the road. Stripped down to the bare essentials of who we were and staring the possibility of “‘til death do us part” brought us to an intimacy that we’d never known and we came to see and know each other in a new light. We had everything to lose, everything to gain. For me, I experienced and understood what it meant to really live selflessly for you. It was one hell of a way to get to that place of unconditional love, a place I thought I’d been before. Believe me, I hadn’t.
Looking back now, I have to admit to you that sometimes I was so spent, it seemed like the most exhausting work to keep at it, to stay in relationship. It would have been easier to just withdraw into myself. To turn away, close off. But you pursued me and continued to talk to me, wanting to connect and be in relationship until your dying day. That was always you Phil. Always vulnerable, always trying to make it better, always pursuing.
In the end, somehow, while enduring chemotherapy and the ravages of an all out assault on your very being you found the strength to continue to pursue me when I was exhausted, spent and at times, disappointing. We found a way to pursue and find each other in the moments and in the reprieves. Ultimately, I am proud of what we accomplished together. They were sixteen great, hard loving years. We became better people during our life together. We have an incredible son and daughter who live on with fierce spirits just like ours. They are doing fine and will do great things with their lives, because of you and I in them. They will have lives full of joy and sorrow and laughter and love because that is what life is! Like us, they will know who they are and how they are and will live and love with eyes wide open.
Phil, in your absence, and with no more chances to share in the fruits of our mutual labor with you, it now seems obscene to complain at all. I count myself a victor who came away from our beautiful crucible with a lion’s share of lessons learned. How I take them forward will be the way I honor you and the life we shared together.
Happy Anniversary, you were an incredible and faithful partner. Thank you for loving me hard!