MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: To have and to hold until death do us part

Few things ever match the excitement of getting married. The joy of the engagement – finding your soulmate with whom you want to spend your life. The stirring in your heart when you hear the organ playing Mendelssohn’s Wedding March – pacing your steps to ensure that you arrive in front of the pulpit exactly at the time when the music ends. That precious moment when you repeat your vows aloud after the preacher: “I take you Andre, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part.” Little did I know what I had promised. What a protection that we cannot see into the future. Since our friendship and engagement, our laughter and tears were woven together for 38 years. For 35 of them we had depression as a companion. Shaping us, moulding us, being a teacher of life lessons. In our journey with pain, our broken hearts seemed to also be enlarged to hold more joy.

What did it mean ‘to have you’? Did I ‘buy’ you with the title deed of marriage? Did I own you? Indeed not. ‘To have’ is the gift of unconditional acceptance. ‘To hold’ is a pledge of physical affection and tenderness. When sickness arrived unplanned and robbed your emotional connection away, what did having and holding look like then? A chronic illness eats away at your being. Your capacity for connection became less and less. I am angry at you that in spite of all my having and holding, our marriage has become an empty void that ended in you walking away in death. I feel cheated. This is not what I signed the marriage register for.

I signed for companionship and romantic love. I signed for your loving embrace. I signed for togetherness, not for loneliness. I signed for embracing life, not withdrawing into a death wish. I am angry at the illness that had you in such a vice grip that it crushed all life out of you. I am angry at you for not fighting harder but giving up (or that is just how it feels and seems to me?). I am angry at God for not answering my prayers and healing you miraculously. I wanted the whole shebang of a total overnight miracle. The testimony in church on Sunday that brings everyone to their feet: “After 35 years God has heard her prayers and her husband was healed of depression overnight.” That is not how our story ended.

I read the book of Job and in my spirit, I go and sit next to him, dressed in sackcloth. I throw ashes over my head and wipe it over my face where it mingles with my tears. Job, I will sit silently next to you. I have no words of wisdom or advice to say to you. Job 6:2 “Oh that my grief were fully weighed, and my calamity laid with it on the scales! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea.”

Today I mourn the loss of the dreams of my wedding day – the fairy-tale ending that said, “and the prince and the princess lived happily ever after”. In sickness and in health, until death do us part. Today, I have no words.

Job 8:21 “He will yet fill your mouth with laughing, and your lips with rejoicing.” I am holding onto God as I learn to mourn and learn how to say goodbye, over and over and over again.

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