My immediate family has our first wedding. My daughter and her husband, yes, her husband, were married last year at the courthouse before moving to New York City. Because of COVID, no one was allowed to go with them; they were pronounced legally married, not husband and wife. Our immediate family and close friend, Bill Davell, stood outside the courthouse, threw flowers, hugged, and went home for a family dinner. In December, they will have a second wedding in a church reciting their vows before God, family, and friends. As we all know, it’s an exciting time with lots of details about the guest list, invitation, save-the-date cards, showers, food, flowers, music, colors, the list goes on and on. I was with some of my closest gal pals recently, and they were all shopping for their perfect outfits for the various gatherings. What about the vows?
Caring for a spouse
Sadly, very recently, I’ve had conversations with two men about caring for their wives with Alzheimer’s. One lost his wife recently, and the other was caring for his in the late stages of the disease. Charlie Halleran, one of our marriage directors, had shared a book entitled The Promise. It’s the story of a man who lost his wife to Alzheimer’s, and the story of their journey. My father-in-law has recently passed, but he too, cared for his wife with Alzheimer’s until she died. I’m sure many of you have walked the same journey.
What does Alzheimer’s and my daughter’s wedding have to do with one another? It’s the vows.
The wonder and dreams of beginning a life together are full of excitement, but living out the vows we state before God, family and friends when life becomes excruciating is what determines our life and those with whom we share life. Some will say because Alzheimer’s is usually a disease that comes late in life, the couple was able to sustain the marriage because they had many happy years beforehand. What about when other tragedies come? What about the young couple that experienced the death of their infant child or the car accident that left our loved ones debilitated for the rest of their life? Love may wane, but the vows are a covenant.
For richer or poorer
For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, from this day forward as long as the two shall live, till death us do part is more than weighty. I vividly remember walking down the aisle, reciting the vows before God with all the people I loved most in the world as my witness, and for the first time, really grasping the significance of what I was committing. Most of us can repeat the vows from memory because we’ve heard them so many times, but most of us don’t grasp the magnitude of the words until we face something that challenges that commitment. For some, the challenge for better or worse may be something as benign as boredom; this isn’t fun anymore. Sickness and health may be loneliness due to the physical or mental absence of your spouse; maybe they are no longer able to communicate or be physically intimate. For others, richer or poorer may be the loss of income or the demands of wealth. Life-defining challenges will come.
A chord of three strands
The wedding represents a life-defining marker in our life, but it’s not the flowers, the dress, the gifts, the parties, the music, and all the details we focus on. It’s the three-chord strand that’s not easily broken, the promise of the vows before God that sustains us when all the guests are gone and the honeymoon is over. Living our vows is more than a few well-rehearsed weighty words. It’s a sacrificial, other-centered, sacred, hallowed, holy, inviolable, consecrated covenant that embodies unspeakable pain, jubilation and eternal significance.
Live the Life South Florida exists to strengthen marriages and families through healthy relationship education, beginning in middle school through senior adults. We are educators, coaches, and pastoral counselors. If you’re looking for a clinical counselor or therapist, we are blessed to have many in the South Florida community. We’d be honored to provide you a list of highly qualified and reputable individuals. Visit livethelifesoflo.org
Read more articles by Lisa May at goodnewsfl.org/author/lisa-may/