In a few days, Joe and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Thinking back to that day, we never imagined the path our marriage would take. With our friends and families looking on, barefoot on a beach and the gentle crash of the ocean waves in the background, we said our vows.
“I, take thee, to be my wedded spouse.
To have and to hold, from this day forward,
For better, for worse
For richer, for poorer
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
Till death do us part”
We would never have guessed that “for worse” would include the death of our daughter. As we looked out over the water, we did not imagine that we’d return six years later to release our daughter’s ashes on the same beach. As we stood in the sand and exchanged rings, we didn’t picture ourselves later embracing in a cemetery looking down at a stone that bears Zoey’s name, birth date, and death date. And it’s strange to think that the spot where, after we returned home from Jamaica we celebrated our marriage with family and friends at a reception, would later become the place where we once again joined together to celebrate her beautiful life.
The seas in our marriage haven’t always been calm. There have been dark days and rough waters. While we always love each other, we don’t always like each other. We get irritable. Angry. We have different expectations. We have different breaking points. We both grieve, but differently. Sometimes I’m up, he’s down. He’s down but I don’t have the strength to help. And how many times can he see me crumbled on the floor with a tear-stained face and still think I’m beautiful? I can’t help but wonder how much one marriage can handle before crumbling. Will we be stronger for what we have endured? Built up by being repeatedly torn and tested only to come back stronger? Or will the constant battering of harsh winds create weaknesses? Will the tiny cracks that have formed give way and fracture?
While we’ve been deeply bruised, there’s also been beauty– so much beauty. The darkness and the light dance together just as we swayed together for our first dance. Our love remains as deep as it was that day on the beach when we promised we’d stay together no matter what life brought us. When doubt creeps in, we cling to each other. Some love stories seem to be the perfect fairy tale. Ours may not look that way on paper, but despite all the pain, all the hurt we face now, I think our love story is pretty remarkable. Our daughter was a beautiful child, a beautiful life, a beautiful soul and was created out of a beautiful love.
As we go into our tenth year, I hope our vows ring true. For better. For worse. ‘Til our deaths do us part.