The incomparable Julie Baldwin is here to wrap up the wedding vow mini-series. How do we cope with the ‘until death do us part’ line? What does that mean in our day-to-day married lives?
“Marriage: To Death, Infinity and Beyond”
The first time Will, my now-husband, and I talked about him specifically dying, I felt the tears well up fast. His grandfather had died a few months earlier, and I had been at Will’s parents’ house for the weekend. I walked over to his grandfather’s house with him to wait for the body to be examined and taken away. We had talked about board games and tattoo wedding rings.
Now, he was on his family medicine rotation and Will’s possible future vegetable/ memory loss status was on the table.
“If I forget who you are,” he said, “just hire a nice nurse to take care of me and go on living your life.”
“For better and for worse, in sickness and in health,” I said, and I meant every word. God has tried those words on for size during our marriage, and in a different capacity of vegetable existence. We’ve gotten past a career hurdle and more grad school, and into residency; we survived seven months of morning sickness. Moreover, we’ve thrived.
When you’re frustrated with someone, sometimes space is needed to sort out the details. But when you’re married and sharing space, life gets more face time. Will and I have many “What exactly is wrong?” conversations, because every conversation is an investment. I tend to get frustrated when I am hungry or anxious. Will tends to get frustrated when I am not communicating well or when he’s around other people’s disagreements. Knowing this about each other helps disarm any land mines before one of us walks into a sensitivity.
Communication is, hands down, the hardest part of any relationship because it requires equal amounts courage and honesty. Will needs my cheerfulness, especially when he’s stressed, and for me to be upfront with him on all my emotions. I need Will’s quality time, especially after he gets home, and his logical mind and even temperament during my brainstorming conversations. By discussing our needs, we actively working on loving each other best.
Needs will change with kids, too, or with job or career changes, and with time. Death always seems far off when we’re younger, but with Will’s profession being medicine, it seems more in the forefront of our life together.
Death is not the final horizon, though. There are things worse than death that exist in this world, and the best preparation a couple can do is help each other get to Heaven.
This is not the pie-in-the-sky idea as I once saw it, either. Getting to Heaven means:
- Bring out the best in your spouse – Will makes me want to be a better woman, and I make Will want to be a better man. We live life together by encouraging each other in our hopes and goals.
- Celebrate your faith together – we pray together every night, attend Mass with each other, and encourage each other spiritually.
- Humble your desires – As a couple, we both do things we’d rather not do – like laundry, getting up instead of sleeping, studying – so we can be the best spouses to each other and parents to our daughter.
- Seek happiness – There will be tough times: acknowledge hardships, talk through them, support each other, and try not to dwell in them. There is always hope; God always provides. Be open to His will; see the blessings.
- Seek each other – Life changes all of us. We will all grow, hopefully in maturity and wisdom. Most importantly, we should grow both individually and as a couple.
- Love each other – Love is the surest pathway to God, and the greatest asset in marriage.
Death comes for all of us. Marriage is a sacrament intended to lead us closer to God, and our commitment to it will leave us with no regrets when the time comes. Once married, our lives are so intertwined that my beloved is mine, and I am his (Song of Songs 2:16); and in love, we can never be truly separated.
Julie Baldwin is Editor in Chief of Ignitum Today. She edits, writes and teaches in PA, where she lives with her husband and baby daughter.