In retrospect, we were shockingly young, each of us not quite 23. Recently we were teasing my parents about how they could have consented to our wedding and they joked back "You weren't asking for our permission!" And of course we were not. We were madly in love, two dreamers who found in each other a partner in our dreams. We had known each other as casual friends for years, and I deeply trusted the quality of Dave's character. He made me laugh, made me believe the best about myself, made me feel safe. I felt like I could do anything if only I could be with him. We wanted the same things in life, and we wanted a life together.
Of course, as Dorothy Day said (quoting Father Zossima from The Brothers Karamazov) "Love in action compared to love in dreams is a harsh and dreadful thing." We soon found that the feelings of elation that carried us through our mad-cap courtship were no match for the quotidian efforts of daily life. We both have wrestled with depression, and some days, when each of us is struggling to get through the day, our partnership has felt like a cruel match. But we certainly have great compassion for one another, and at our best, we can be a true support and comfort to one another.
After seven and a half years, I can look back and say, "What was the rush?" We both had so much growing up to do. And yet we've done a lot of our growing up together, which has sometimes been exhausting, but has also been a lot of fun.
We used to say that we didn't believe in "The One," because love is a choice that we make each day. While I do still continue to make that daily choice, our years together have woven our lives so tightly into one cloth that Dave has come to be "The One" for me.
"In the name of God, I, Caren, take you, David, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow."
I love the young, young woman in that picture, who spoke those words seven summers ago. She knew that marriage would be hard, and she had great courage, along with her idealism, to make a vow that she knew would be difficult to keep.
And I am still madly in love with that young, young man who took my hand that day and has not let it go. In many ways, each of us are already different people than we were on our wedding day (and I imagine that we will continue to evolve over a lifetime together), but we have somehow succeeded more often than not in honoring the deep core of one another. We have tried not to shy away from the work that a relationship on this level requires, and while we have often stumbled in this attempt, we have continued to come back to it. I am so grateful for the effort that Dave continues to put into understanding me and to being a faithful husband to me. And of course, becoming parents has brought us together in ways we could not have anticipated. Dave is such a good father, and watching him with our daughter makes me fall in love with him all over again.
So thank you Dave, for being my Valentine, for being my best friend and my partner in life. I love walking this journey with you. I will keep going, bound by my love for you, the vows we made, and this life we are building together. I will not turn away from the work that lies before us, and I will celebrate the story we have already lived. Thank you, thank you, thank you, my love.
Excerpt from "The Country of Marriage" by Wendell Berry: (The entirety of the poem was read my uncle at our wedding.) Read the whole thing here.
Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.
O gracious and everliving God, you have created us male and female in your image: Look mercifully upon this man and this woman who come to you seeking your blessing, and assist them with your grace, that with true fidelity and steadfast love they may honor and keep the promises and vows they make; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. AMEN.