I have a memory of the party we had in honor of my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. I vaguely remember having a harpist at our home and toasting my parent’s long marriage. The only vivid memory I have of the occasion is thinking how old they were (late 60s!!) and how far off that event seemed in my life at the time.
Fast forward to August, 2016. My husband and I were looking at our 40th wedding anniversary with a sense of pride and awe. How could we be approaching our 40th? Where had the time gone? It seemed like just yesterday that we stood before each other (in our late teens) and pledged our love and devotion for the rest of our lives, not really understanding or knowing what we were pledging to each other.
In the years since, we have marked the occasion with people and parties as we sought to celebrate the increasing years in a public way. This year, after much discussion and thought, we decided to do something different. We renewed our vows privately, in a small local chapel with only the pastor present. There was no performance or public display of the occasion. We stood before each other, older and wiser, and restated our commitment to each other and our marriage. Before we repledged the vows that we had pledged 40 years prior, we had prepared our own vows to say to each other. My vows came to me as many thoughts do, while I was driving in my car one day. I was frantically grabbing a piece of paper and pencil from the glove compartment and scribbling notes at the stoplight.
On the day of our renewal, I put on a white summer dress I had bought for the occasion, and tucked my vows into my purse. My husband and I walked hand in hand into the small chapel and met the pastor. We stood facing each other in front of the small altar, and I took a deep breath as I prepared to share my thoughts with the man that stood before me, my husband of 40 years. As I looked at him I realized I still see the seventeen year old boy I fell in love with all those years ago. Although his hair has thinned and there are wrinkles in his once smooth face, his green eyes still crinkle when they smile at me, and I am reminded of the eighteen year old girl that confidently stood before him all those years ago, unaware of the challenges life would pose to our new and untarnished love. I took a deep breath and shared my vows in the quiet chapel as the sun streamed through the stained glass window.
When we took our wedding vows 40 years ago, I thought I knew what our vows meant, but…I didn’t know.
I thought I knew what love was, but I didn’t know.
I thought I knew what it meant to support someone in times of sickness and health, but I didn’t know.
I thought I knew what it meant to be there in good and bad times, but I didn’t know.
I thought I knew what it meant to honor and cherish someone, but I didn’t know.
We were at the beginning of our life journey and our love was new and untested. We had not weathered the disappointments and trials life would place in our path.
But I stand before you today to retake the vows I pledged to you when I was 18 years old, and now I DO know…
I know what it means to be loved and supported through infertility and a brain tumor- and to love and support my husband through physical and neurological injuries.
I know what it means to have my hand held as my father lays dying and hold the hand of my husband through his parent’s deaths.
I know what it means to forgive…and to be forgiven.
I know what it means to laugh and to cry with my husband by my side.
Our love is not new anymore. It is a bit bruised, but it is deeper and more meaningful after being tested over 4 decades.
I’ve learned that we can mistakes and forgive each other.
I’ve learned that life can throw us challenges and our love can endure.
oday I do know what my vows mean, and I repeat them again with full knowledge and understanding. 40 years later, I choose you all over again-to be my husband and my life partner…as long as we both shall live.