They sit in front of me at the 9am Mass. They are elderly, and have not been attending as often; I know he has cancer. Recently out of the hospital, they came back to Mass last week. He looked sick. He never did before. But this time, he did. Less hair. White skin. Fragile. Coughing. And she held onto his hand.
But she always holds onto his hand. And they are always both smiling. They are always together. And I know this might sound morbid, but I have pictured her alone. I have imagined what the day will be like when she walks into the church on the left side, and takes her seat in the third pew, stopping to give hugs and kisses and chat with her neighbors...and he is not by her side. This is a place I can not linger in for too long, because it inevitably leads me to myself and the reality that I, too, may one day be alone.
It was right before getting up to receive the Eucharist, that he leaned in towards his wife, and whispered, "Will you bring your purse up to Communion with you?" I did not hear why, because he never said why...but I knew it meant he needed to leave immediately. These are not the "receive and run" type of people. Something was wrong. And she paused, and then looking at him said, "Okay, of course." While slipping the strap of her purse over her shoulder he whispered, "Thank you very much." She turned to him and said, "We will call the Doctor", unto which he replied, "There is nothing we can do."
And it was in that brief witness of the absolute beauty in the vocation of marriage that caused the tears to swell up and spill out of my eyes. Everything needed to build a lasting, strong, faithful marriage, was right there in front of me. Her sacrifice for him without needing an explanation, his gratefulness for her and his verbally expressing that, and perhaps what got me the most: the fact that whatever it was he was facing, he was not facing it alone, because they are not a he and a she, a you and a me, but they are a WE. "There is nothing WE can do", he said.
He could have said, "There is nothing the Doctor can do."
He could have said, "There is nothing you can do,"
He could have said, "There is nothing I can do."
But he didn't.
He said, "There is nothing we can do."
In this world today, where the "what's in it for me" mentality seems to be the road most taken in relationships, what a gift it was for me to be reminded of the true beauty in marriage. In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, til death do we part. There's that we again. And I think it is in that split second moment when husbands and wives are so frustrated, so hurt, so depressed and so stressed, that they turn their focus completely on themselves, only able to see their own joy, their own pain, their own desires, their own life. They start to look at their lives as separate islands, losing all compassion and respect for the one they once promised their life to. THIS is the fracture that opens the door to the Devil; this is his way in to destroy and demolish all that is life giving, fruit bearing, and good; his opportunity to kill your WE.
I spent the entire day praying and weeping for all married couples. Marriage is not easy. Marriage can be painful. Marriage can feel like a death. But I have also seen how wonderful it can be, and not in the middle of the good times, but right in the midst of the deepest suffering. And why it has taken me so long to open my eyes to this vocation of mine is beyond me, but they are opening none the less, and for that, I sing praises of joy and sing great songs of gratitude.
Marriage is not about me. It is about we.
And I wouldn't want it any other way.