Looking back a quarter of a century to our wedding day, there is so much in my heart and mind. First, I can't believe it's been 25 years. How could that happen? We feel, in our spirits at least, like we are still 23 and 24, don't we? Our bodies tell us differently, as do the circumstances of our lives (eight children, a lovely home, an established career, and now two grandchildren!).
I sometimes think, Who were we then, and who are we now? Well, back then, we were highly immature and spiritually undeveloped. We were definitely products of the '80s. We swore like sailors, we didn't often go to church (I was a lapsed Catholic -- still thinking myself "devout", remember? -- and you were an agnostic Jew), and we contracepted without a thought.
But there was one thing that was never, ever in question: When we married, we would stay married until death parted us. I knew it in my Catholic bones, and instinctively you knew it, too. We were making our vows for life.
I've thought a lot about what I would write for our 25th anniversary. At 20 years, I wrote a fun pictorial. At 21 years, I recounted how our reversion/conversion affected our openness to life. And since then, I have revealed even some of our most difficult times, because there are always those.
I thought of pouring forth all the clichés that make sense now, all the sentimental musings, the lessons, cute stories, the profundities, and things I love about you.
But I keep coming back to something that I said to you in the car a few months ago, as we were simply driving along. It suddenly hit me, this thing that had happened when we weren't looking. In a state of wonder, I turned to you and said:
"We've built a life!"
And that's it. We've built a life. Not two lives, but a life. We started young and we built together, side by side, the way that God intended for us to grow in holiness, the only way life and love can exist on this earth: with and through God's grace.
Here is the sacred vow we made to each other before God and our loved ones on July 28, 1990:
"I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life."
I am blessed to be married to you, a man who took those vows seriously. And God has blessed us abundantly in return.
This very week I learned of a pre-Vatican II "Exhortation Before Marriage", which was read to every Catholic couple on their wedding day. Here's an excerpt from this gorgeous statement; I know you will appreciate it (emphases mine):
This union, then, is most serious, because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate, that it will profoundly influence your whole future, That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes. You know that these elements are mingled in every life, and are to be expected in your own. And so not knowing what is before you, you take each other for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.
Truly, then, these words are most serious. It is a beautiful tribute to your undoubted faith in each other, that recognizing their full import, you are, nevertheless, so willing and ready to pronounce them. And because these words involve such solemn obligations, it is most fitting that you rest the security of your wedded life upon the great principle of self-sacrifice.
And so you begin your married life by the voluntary and complete surrender of your individual lives in the interest of that deeper and wider life which you are to have in common. Henceforth you will belong entirely to each other; you will be one in mind, one in heart, and one in affections. And whatever sacrifices you may hereafter be required to make to preserve this mutual life, always make them generously. Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy. We are willing to give in proportion as we love. And when love is perfect, the sacrifice is complete.
I love you Dean-o, and I am looking forward to our next 25 years!