We stood in the farm field. It was a warm late-August day. The summer sun peeking in and out behind delightful white puffy clouds, shining through enough to give us bursts of warmth, but hiding enough to be our photographer’s dream.
The day was everything we had imagined and more. I, an anxious, worry-wart, managed to summons the calmness from the depths of my being. Unbeknownst to me, this chillness did exist and I was ever present at our wedding. Looking back I know I am a lucky one. Too often brides stress their way through their big day, but I truly enjoyed every second of our wedding and lived out each moment presently.
When you are standing at the altar (or in our case the end of a manmade aisle through a field), the life that lays ahead of you may in that moment seem all too perfect. We were young, healthy, slept well, selfish with ourselves and our time, stayed out late, actually went out. Dinners, trips, and dates. We each had jobs and owned a home, and one hell of a honeymoon following the wedding planned. Life was the idea of perfect.
And while I truly believe in the sanction of marriage and the legal, ritual, and Holiness of the act, when you are 26 years old, the vows you stand before your soon to be pronounced spouse, never carry the weight they mean until you are forced to live out the words and promises you made. You see, the act of marriage is heavy matter, but too often the actual symbolism behind taking a partner is caught up in moments of lust and dreams of a wedding day. One never really understands the significance until long after the last wedding card is opened, and you finish washing those clothes from your Carribean honeymoon.
To have and to hold, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.
Nathan and I have been married five years. In those five years, we have muddled through some great and some hard times. There have been fights, cold shoulders, purposely missed phone calls, we have yelled, said things we regret and generally disliked each other at moments. We went through happy yet stressful situations like welcoming our daughter and learning how to become parents, and I saw promotions that turned into major stress and anxiety breakdowns before finally switching jobs. Through it all we survived, definitely not thrived, but learned to cope through every circumstance.
But, then Nathan suffered his injury which we are still dealing with today and suddenly our worlds collided in a new way.
The day Nathan was struck in the eye, we were bickering. Which wasn’t atypical of our life and routine. Busy lives and a two-year old mean miscommunication and sometimes just general annoyance. He planned on going early to the Lake as I had a baby shower to attend, and I asked him to catch a ride with his parents so we didn’t have two cars an hour from home. I hated to drive at night and have two cars in one place. He was annoyed with me micromanaging our life and I was frustrated that he could never just go along with me micromanaging our life. 🙂
Four hours later everything would change.
This past month we have both experienced the weight of our vows – in sickness and in health. I never imagined being 31 years old and feeling the stress, sadness, and hope that comes with in sickness. But here we are!
And, you know what? In sickness and in health is not what I expected. Somehow in sickness, morphed Nathan and me together in a special way. When you watch the person you love suffer from pain and grief, you begin to peel away all the layers of daily nonsense that use to get in the way and focus solely on the person. A person that had flaws the day before that maybe drove you mad, suddenly is just a person you love so hard and fight so hard for.
In sickness puts things and lives in perspective. I hate that it takes that to do that but the reality is, I feel a greater sense of gratitude and love for him. It can be very unfortunate that most people in this life don’t know what they have until it is gone or too late. I am grateful for this season and while it has been challenging and heartbreaking for us both but mostly, him, the one thing I know we both have taken from the experience is a better sense of what each other brings to the table during the in sickness part of our lives. The strength and foundation of our marriage was tested and thankfully revealed a solidness that I would have never really seen if it wasn’t for this injury and for our teamwork to cope.
Suddenly life while actually is much more stressful, has become much more simple. The noises that tend to clog a marriage day-to-day, have become much more insignificant and instead we both are focused on us, our daughter and his healing.
I am certain that five years ago when I stood there hand-in-hand with Nathan and promised him in sickness and in health, I had no clue what that meant or felt like to live out that promise. Now that we are living it I can’t help but realize that this unknown world while not anything I wish for him, has granted us so much more.
And while things are not perfect and I know Nathan wishes he could re-do that night and alter his prognosis, I now know what it means to live out a part of our vows I thought were worlds away. I wish today I could go back to 26 year-old Ashli, and recite those vows. The meaning now feels different. This season of in sickness came into our lives so sudden and abrubtly. While I have been grateful for Nathan and our marriage, oddly, in some way I am too blessed by the in sickness as it stripped away some of the messy and revealed something quite strong and beautiful. And, when this in sickness decides to fade away, I know I will be grateful for what it left behind to carry us through the in health that I hope is not too far away.