Saturday, I watched a wife say goodbye to her husband. I watched a marriage end, if death can end such a union. They'd met in their late teens and been married for over 40 years.
Sunday, I went to a wedding.
My sister warned me it could be hard - not that I needed a warning. She and I had both hoped our godfather would be the one to marry us to our future spouses. My dad had suggested it recently too. And John and I had just talked about it not even a week before hearing that Uncle Bob was in the ICU. I certainly spent a portion of that wedding wondering who else would mean enough to me to fill that spot. I don't think there is anyone else. I'm not sure what we'll do should that opportunity arise.
But I spent even more of my time at the wedding thinking what a wonderful, and terrifying thing marriage is. We know the danger of young love. The whole lead up to marriage is risk and vulnerability - it's scary and hard and at any moment it could be the end of what you've been building. But then comes marriage - security, promises, togetherness. And before that, engagement, the assurance of hope - - - 'til death do us part.
That part comes too. And we never know when. Therefore, I guess love is really always dangerous. You'll hurt one another, you'll misunderstand one another, you'll fail one another, or feel like you're failing one another (maybe an even worse fate), and eventually one day you'll leave, or they'll leave. Though you'd stay with them forever. We cannot promise forever. But we can choose love until our last day. And everything along the way is leading up to that - it's trying to teach us how to do it - how to choose vulnerability, how to risk, how to give though one day we might not be able to get back.
And I assume when that one day comes, we discover that it was all just teaching us something even bigger - preparing us to be able to give something more, be more vulnerable... for some grand reason we might think we understand now, but don't.
For me, I don't understand it. I don't get what happens next, when a woman says goodbye to her love of 40 years - to the man she's given her life to. I don't get what happens next. But I get that love's a danger. And I get that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. And I believe it's proportionally true in the days you have together. So Sunday I watched them give their vows and make their promises, and I pictured her saying goodbye to him 60 years later. And it was wonderful and terrifying. Because though she's guaranteed to lose, she's choosing to love.
Should I get to choose - it will be with all this in mind. Some people love to flip to the last page of a book before starting the story. I've never been one. It's so much harder to walk through a tale once you've seen a heartbreak on the last pages.