Tomorrow is the day of our Twenty-Seventh Wedding Anniversary. For 10 months I’ve wondered what this day will feel like. There has been a list of reasons why this day was to be dreaded.
After any crisis, when we encounter holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, there is added weight to the calendar. We learned about this nearly two decades ago after our daughter died. When we were in the beginning stages of grieving, her birthday didn’t just arrive. It occurred in extremes. As we moved closer to the date, with no party to plan, our mood shifted downward. Then there was the mind-blowing low as we acknowledged the reality that our nineteen-month old would never age, accompanied by a calm peace as we (somehow) survived this knowledge. Throughout the actual date of her birthday, friends and family reached out and demonstrated their love to us, and we were catapulted to a high. Their acts of kindness lifting us heavenward, towards her. Towards Him.
This crisis of marital infidelity takes out stones and lodges them at my calendar. A heavy awareness of broken vows weighs me down when I think of my wedding anniversary. My own mind throws the stones, and each stone tears a hole in the calendar, as if it is trying to rip the 18th of December from time and erase it completely.
You see, when we celebrate we are essentially saying, “Good job!” After an affair, do we utter such an absurdity? It feels false. It feels as authentic as congratulating a drunk driver for surviving a collision. Sitting here, the day before our Anniversary, my mind reels at the thought of how we will navigate through the day.
Overhead clouds roll in and respond to my aching heart. As the dark rain clouds release themselves, everything slows down for a few hours. I look out the window and watch as the desert ground absorbs the moisture, and I wonder if this year, this horribly-hard-year, is to be the defining year for our marriage. Will the betrayal of last year absorb itself into our lives for good? There are twenty-seven years to consider, but it seems as if it all comes back to this horribly-hard-year.
I find myself trying to remember something significant from each year we’ve been married. There has to be more to our marriage than this horribly-hard-year. If this is the sum of it all then let the stones have their way and rip this date from the existence of time. Without a verbal prompt, I grab a dry-erase marker and board. I begin to make a list.
I list memorable moments in our marriage. I try to think of everything that may stand out in each of the twenty-seven years. I use a calculator to keep track of the years and the ages of our children. Over the course of the afternoon, I continue listing small, somewhat meaningless events and activities.
I am making what I call The Twenty-Seventh List, but I stop before I’ve reached the end. I am afraid to list anything from the horribly-hard-year. Our marriage is made up of so much more than what we’ve been living through lately.
The Twenty-Seventh List: (an overview)
I note the times we have relocated because of ministry. Three weeks after our wedding, rather than taking a job where we could stay near family, we began our marriage by relocating to another state and taking the responsibility of a full time ministry position. It was just the two of us and we were beyond frightened, but we believed that God would provide us a community and life in the unfamiliar land.
I note the homes we have bought together; there were four. My husband and I have survived escrow together on four occasions–surely that alone is worth some type of celebration.
I note the animals who have been a part of our family. Dogs & cats, turtles & fish–too many to disclose. The names of each animal bringing about a memory that causes a grin or a grimace. Which memory was the most heartbreaking? It’s a tie between, Sami-girl, everyone’s favorite poodle mix who disappeared one Fourth of July, and Maximas the black Godfather cat who was run down in front of our home on Christmas Eve.
I note the four greatest blessings to ever grace the home of an undeserving couple. In the seventh year of our marriage, for a short amount of time, we lived in a household with all four of our children. Everyone was born and no one had died. Every night there were four little bodies to feed and bathe. Jammies had feet, cups had lids, and everyone had a blankie. We were aware that time was fleeting, but we weren’t aware that everyone’s clock wasn’t set to the same timer.
I note the day our daughter died. Passion turned to depression. Pain turned to more pain. Hard turned to perseverance.
I note the bicycles, scooters and cars given as gifts. The dance attire and graduation gowns. The California Missions projects, photo shoots, and science fair failures. I note the piano lessons gone wrong and baseball games gone well. I note the yard sales, overseas missions trips, and sleepovers. I note the wedding engagements and the evolving nature of our still extending family.
I note the day our daughter told us we were to be grandparents. An unexpected fear had come over me when she shared her news. I knew what it felt like to love and lose a child. For her to love greatly would mean that one day she may hurt greatly.
I note the look on our granddaughter’s face two weeks ago. When this little one came to visit, she knew us. This little perfect girl knew her Papa and Mimi.
Here’s the thing. Not one good thing on the list makes the whole of our marriage anymore than any one failure makes the whole of our marriage. To survive this horribly-hard-year we are reliant on grace. To survive any marriage, the players are reliant on grace. A wedding anniversary is a day to celebrate a series of days where two people were successful at treating one another with more grace than either one deserved. This year we are celebrating twenty-seven years of failures and successes. Neither being more significant than the other. Our failures have worked their own good, in the same way that our successes have been stumbling blocks.
Tomorrow is the day of our Twenty-Seventh Wedding Anniversary. For 10 months I’ve wondered what this day will feel like. There is a list of reasons why this day is to be celebrated.