In the smallness of my life, big things happened this week. My daughter learned to say her sister’s name. My cousin got married. The historic mill I work in was flooded. A good friend lost his wife. A friend gave birth to her first child, a baby girl. A friend decided to leave her marriage. How amazing it is to stand in the middle of all that life, all that hardship, all that wonder and be so proud, so worried, so joyful, so sad. This week has definitely been a time of perspective. Watching my cousin’s smiling face as he said his vows, seeing the photos of a beaming new mommy, hearing beautiful little words take shape in a small voice, I’m filled with the overwhelming acceptance and excitement of the new promises of everyday. I’m in awe at the amazing gifts God gives to us in every moment, even those that don’t involve dramatic new beginnings.
Looking at the happiness that is filling up so many people, it is a shock to watch some people’s worlds fall apart. My friend Frank lost his only love, Elizabeth, to a tragic accident. At twenty-five, they had been a couple for most of their lives, devoted and unconditionally loving each other with the kind of purity and intrinsic giddiness that is contagious and inspiring. Just days before she passed, Frank told me that he wouldn’t know what to do without Elizabeth, she was his whole world. He was sad that he couldn’t take her out to celebrate the anniversary of their engagement, because she had broken her leg. As he told me the story of how he asked her to marry him, and of their wedding, this light inside him radiated out of his face. But less than a week later, she was in the emergency room, gasping for air, a blood clot stuck in her lung. And now, the light of that love will be bottled, sneaking out from time to time as he tells his son and daughter about their mother, but it won’t shine like it did.
How sad it is to have that stolen by death, and how sad that sometimes others take it away. As I think about those who look at the years they have spent together as mistakes, as time wasted or neglected, I ache for them. It takes three persons to make a marriage work, and God is always fighting for it, even if both the husband and wife can’t see any reason to continue. Married people do horrible things to each other, forgetting that, logically, it makes sense to be kind to a spouse because you will see your spouse every day for the duration of your marriage, and hopefully your life. People take each other for granted, forget that a marriage is about being holy, and focus on the things they think the other person should give them. I wish every married couple could have spent an hour with Frank and Elizabeth. Their patience, kindness, and generosity of spirit made them live every day for each other, their family, their friends, and their God. I wish that kind of fullness for everyone. I long for the day when no wife thinks of her husband as the problem (or vice versa), but instead as an aid in finding a solution. I pray for my married friends that they focus on how they can be the best for their spouse, even if their spouse decides to walk away. And hopefully, all the kicking, fighting, and screaming that accompany the hardships of a marriage are the sounds of two people desperately trying to find each other in the dark, and not clambering to get away. Out of those dark times will come little voices calling your name, beautiful smiles beaming up at you, warm embraces, deepening faith, and easy breathing.