During the Miami County fair this month, I attended the ceremony for a local couple in which they renewed their nearly 60-year old wedding vows. It was a powerful and emotional event to witness and held a number of interesting traditions. I was surprised, for example, that they exchanged rings, presumably for a second time.
The vows themselves were fairly traditional, though they included a nice statement to the effect, “with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.”
As I was thinking about my own marriage and what would those words would mean for us, I realized that at first blush “all that I am and all that I have” might not seem too wonderful. I mean, as we get older, things seem to break at an alarming rate. All that I have includes poor eyesight, arthritis, and a touchy gall bladder. All that I am encompasses less teeth, more weight pounds per inch, and more gray hair.
But upon deeper inspection, it becomes more meaningful. Comparing myself to 30 odd years ago when I took the vows the first time, I realize I actually do have a lot and am a lot, well, more. I am more mature, more relaxed, more joyful, and more skilled. I have more insight, more patience, more experience, and more wisdom.
Pretty powerful words, as I think about them.
If I ever got the chance to renew our vows, though, I’m thinking I will go more with a literary version. The first part of “Tale of Two Cities” comes to mind immediately. This would reflect an introspective of the results our first ceremony, in addition to contemplating a second embarking.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Well, sure. After several decades of marriage, most couples have seen lots of terrible times. Illness, money problems, loss of loved ones, and thousands of smaller crises that are typical in families. But the years also give many more wonderful moments. Vacations, meals together, laughter, walks in the woods, job successes, watching your children grow up. The list is almost endless.
“It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” Our marriage has continued to bless me with a partner who helps me grow and develop as a person. There have been some rare moments when we, either individually or together, made some poor decisions. Usually, the foolishness gave us new wisdom, but sometimes they were just dumb. Like that expensive, pillow-inhaling vacuum cleaner.
“It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Sure, there were times when life handed us moments of despair. Getting laid off a job, or hearing a diagnosis of cancer — these kinds of events trouble many couples. But nothing compares to the hope of the job interview, the doctor saying you’re well, or the gurgling of an infant.
But the chances of my getting to renew our wedding vows are slim to none. My husband says they “took” the first time — and he’s usually right!
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