wedding rings.jpg

My parents
recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. I’ve already written about their party, where they
invited a group of friends and family to join them for a fundraiser for Abilis,
an organization that supports men and women with disabilities. But I’ve been
thinking about the 40 years that went into that celebratory day. In particular,
I’ve been thinking about their vows.


Mom and Dad were married on a June day in 1970. They said
their vows: “For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness
and in health. Until death do us part.” They exchanged rings. and then
they walked from the church to my grandparent’s back yard. Mom’s bridesmaids made their outfits–skirts in a daisy pattern, white blouses. And they all ate and
danced and she threw the bouquet and off they went. 

Forty years later, they live in a beautiful house. They
each have good jobs. They have four adult daughters, two sons-in-law and one on
the way, two grandchildren and more to come. They are active members of a local
church. They have supportive friends. But it hasn’t been all roses. They’ve
weathered sick kids, unhappy kids, sick parents, unhappy parents. My dad has
endured four back surgeries over the course of the past few years, including
one that landed him in the ICU for eight days. He lives with chronic pain. Mom
was diagnosed with colon cancer a few months back. She’s cancer free now, but
still found herself in the hospital for a week in April. And although they’ve
never shared any details with me, I suspect that illness is not all they’ve
faced. I suspect they’ve had their unhappy days, months, even years together.

For better, for worse. In sickness, in health. The
traditional marriage vows more or less assume that life together will involve suffering.
That things might get worse. That it’s going to be tough.

I tend to look at marriages that have lasted for decades
and assume that they have been filled with laughter and romantic sentiment. But
I’m starting to assume that those moments of joy and love are inextricably woven together with suffering and disappointment. And that only a covenant
could possibly hold it all together.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for not having the perfect marriage.
Thanks, forty years on, for loving each other, for better, for worse. 

More from Beliefnet and our partners