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My Catholic Marriage
“Happily Ever After” – Part 2
Daniel and I dedicated a good chunk of both Friday night and Saturday to battling our seemingly inescapable enemy: clutter. We pulled all kinds of books, old paperwork, and memorabilia/trinkets of various shapes and sizes out of their hiding places and piled them all in the living room to be gone through. Over the course of the weekend, we actually made a pretty good dent—lots of paper went out to the recycling bin and our yard sale pile is decent as well.
This is the kind of thing that I am never very good at myself, so it was good that I had Daniel to push me on. I tend to get nostalgic about almost everything. It just makes me sad to think of getting rid of things that may have been important to me five or ten years ago, regardless of how good I always feel about it once the deed is done.
I thought some more about “happily ever after” this week, realizing that I spent some time analyzing the “happily” part of it in my last entry, but didn’t look into the “ever after” half of it. Who knew that such a common, seemingly simple phrase from children’s stories could be analyzed this much?
Anyway (I promise this is connected), as I sorted through old birthday, Christmas, and graduation cards, I had to make decisions about what was still important to me and what was no longer important. Memories were dragged to the foreground and the nostalgia set in. I started thinking about time, how fast it goes by and how it changes things. How it changes people. Friendships in my past had come to an end, whether through a dramatic change or by the process of slowly but perceptibly drifting apart. Everything comes to an end in time; we all know this. It is part of the human experience.
My marriage to Daniel is only beginning, so perhaps I shouldn’t be concerning myself too much with the thought that someday it will end. But this is something that I can’t help but thinking about. So, in my search for comfort, I latched onto the words of our wedding vows: “I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” This wording is different from another option, seen in movies and secular weddings, but also an option in the Rite of Marriage, in what I see as a significant way. We didn’t say, “until death do us part.” Even in Heaven, we will still be loving each other, even if it is not in the same way that we love each other now.
As Catholic Christians, we believe that bodily death is not the end of our life. It is when we are baptized that we die and are resurrected in Christ. When our bodies die, we live on. Our souls are immortal, and someday even our bodies, perfected, will join us again. If this is the case, then “all the days of my life,” really means something more than “as long as we’re both walking around on this earth.”
Here is where we join up once again with “happily ever after.” This phrase was on my mind as well when I was de-cluttering my house.
As I wrote last week, isn’t “happily ever after” what we are promised as Christians? Eternal joy with our Lord is absolutely the biggest “happily ever after” there could be. “Ever after” means that whatever it is, there is no ending to it. It’s forever. In terms of marriage, making a promise to love and honor someone “all the days of my life” sounds an awful lot like “ever after” to me. Let’s try it. “I will love you and honor you ever after.” The meaning is still there.
The idea of getting old and dying scares me, although not as much as the idea of dying without getting old. I imagine that it scares most everyone. It’s the fear of the unknown; no one dies and lives to tell the tale (except Jesus, of course). It’s also the fear of being alone. Passing from this world to the next is a journey every single person has to take on their own. I’m reminded of a movie that I loved in high school (and still do). In A Walk to Remember, Landon asks his girlfriend Jamie whether she is scared of dying. She replies, “I’m scared of not being with you.”
This is where “ever after” is helpful. If we are truly joined “ever after,” for “all the days of our lives,” by token of our faith in Christ, then even though we must be separated for a time while one of us remains on this earth without the other, we will hopefully be able to see it as merely an intermission. We will hopefully be strong enough in our faith to know that what is coming next is even better than what we will have experienced in our life together here. Unfathomably better.
At some point, one of us (Daniel or I) will die. Only God knows when that will be. To dedicate your life to loving and serving someone knowing that at any given time you could lose him or her (and at some point, you definitely will) is a really, really scary thing. But we love anyway. We accept that pain because it is worth it. Because even when everything is not “happy” or easy, loving is what makes life worthwhile. Because we are made in the image of our Creator, who is Love.
And because we believe that true love really does last forever. We risk the pain, and we will someday endure the pain, because we believe in “happily ever after.” We really do. We’re Christians.