Till Death Do Us Part

I attended the commitment ceremony of my Pilates instructor and his partner last night. There was beautiful music: cello, four handed piano pieces, and two male opera singers. The symbolism wasn’t lost on me. Each partner then had friends and family stand up and say a few words, a sister running back and forth across the stage handing the mike from one partner’s group to the other’s. She made us laugh when she reveled in her “Vanna White moment”. Then, in a lovely act of simplicity and ceremony, they mixed water and soil from each of their respective homelands.

Two rows below me one of the partner’s parents sat and I could see his father with his head in his hands, as though trying to not see. His mother stared stoically ahead, like a stone statue. But they were there. Despite their apparent disapproval they were there. I lamented the newlywed’s lack of freedom to marry, but was awed by their bravery to do it anyway.

All in all, it was a very moving ceremony. The woman beside me was weeping freely. Another woman on stage kept wiping her eyes. Weddings do that to people. Witnessing true love does that to people.

I found myself flinching at the “till death do us part” moments. My Pilates teacher said as part of his vows “your name will be the last words out of my mouth.” Something deep down inside me knotted up at these words, and made me swallow to keep it down. I didn’t want to think it. I didn’t want to leap ahead in my mind to what this new couple might have in store for them. I wanted to believe that it doesn’t have to be “till death” because those words give it a finite end, and I know now that it just isn’t that simple.

I wish I didn’t fear for every happy couple I attend the wedding of, but weddings I realize now, are often a difficult reminder of the happy bride I once was, of the certainty I had that I would grow old with my husband, that when “death did us part”, we would somehow be ready.

But no one is ever ready.

9 Comments

  1. Suddenwidow August 30, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Abby,
    My heart is aching as I read your post. I yearn for the innocent and naive person I was at my wedding. I also believed that when "death did us part" we would be old and ready. You're right though, no one is ever ready. But when you're in the happy days of newlywed life, dying in your 80's or 90's after a long and happy life together seems so far away and almost an ok ending to a lifetime of memory making. No one every imagines husbands or wives dying far too early. But once we've lived it, there is no going back to being innocent or naive.

    I hope your friends have a long and happy life together. And congratulations to them for being brave enough to grab love with both hands and leap into the future.

  2. Kim August 30, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    This post brought me to tears.

    I never ever thought that death would come to separate us so soon.

    I hope your friends never find out.

  3. Lis August 31, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    This is a great post, the new perspective that we see everything with. We enter into marriage with all the best outcomes in mind, we are not prepared for any other possiblities.
    With clenched stomach, we can only hope for the best.

  4. Mel September 1, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Beautiful post. Thank you. I can imagine your knotted stomach all too well. I've tried to evolve my response to weddings, but it's hard not to wince.
    xoxo,

  5. annie September 1, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I don't think anyone stands at the altar the first time and seriously considers having to make good on the "downer" side of the vows: poorer, sickness, death. We all believe that we are the couple that will celebrate our 50th anniversary and by the little old couple strolling through the park hand in hand. It's good really to have that optimism.

    My niece is getting married the first weekend in October. I want her to be that optimistic. Reality will strike daily in hopefully not too big of ways but that first day should be one of limitless possibilities.

  6. Abigail September 1, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Of course when we stand at the altar we are filled only with optimism. We want everyone attending the wedding to share that optimism too. But I have found that at weddings, my own optimism falters a little and becomes something more akin to hope. And the "Till death do us part" bit takes on a little more meaning than it ever had before.

  7. Anonymous September 2, 2009 at 10:59 am

    I'm not trying to sound petty, forgive me if I am. When you say 'commitment ceremony', do you mean wedding? Also, when you say 'partner', do you mean girlfriend? Thanks.

  8. Abigail September 2, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Just to clarify for Anon, it was the wedding of my pilates teacher and his (male) partner, and thus not really a wedding, since sadly, gay marriage is still not legal in Washington State. For their sakes and many, many more, I hope that changes soon. I would be hard pressed to find even a hetero couple more in love or more deserving to have their union legally recognized.

  9. Boo November 29, 2009 at 10:31 am

    what a beautiful post. I've attended two weddings since I lost my husband, and when they exchanged their vows it brought an enormous lump to my throat … you cannot help but remember looking into each eyes, your dreams now broken. Yes it hurts but I still find joy in seeing other couples in love – I don't feel envious really because they don't have what I want. Him.

    You are so right, no one is ever ready, whether young, old, sick or healthy. How can we be ready to face our biggest fear?

    Thanks for sharing

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