Nine years ago, I said the words, “I do.”
…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health…
On the day of my nuptials, I did not fully understand the weight of the words.
Though it remains one of the happiest days of my life, marriage is arduous. It is a journey that weathers many storms. It provides sunscreen, shade and solace on the blistering hot moments of life, a soundtrack for the celebrations, an anchor to pull you safely to harbor, and an umbrella to keep the rain away. Each day presents small opportunities to learn and love. Some days are more challenging than others. It takes durability, resilience, and grit at times. I have learned that the grueling times have ultimately made us steady and stable in the end.
It is fascinating to consider how love evolves over time and how much individual growth occurs year after year as your union flourishes. Nine years later, I can say that we are more in love than we were when we said those I dos. Though, at times, the umbrella of marriage has reversed and appeared to turn inside out. Some days or months wear on you and create tiny holes that are essential to patch promptly and correct with care.
When the rain is over and you find yourself dry once more, you are relieved that the storm has passed and the patch sustained repair. Some nights, you need that anchor to guide you home safely, too. You are grateful and humbled by love’s embrace.
The past nine years have been full of celebratory songs, heavy anchors, multiple bottles of sunscreen, and a reliable patchwork umbrella. Our hearts prefer the harmony, but our lives have tested the dependability of our umbrella.
While our love came first, it naturally falls into last place these days. Anyone with young children would likely agree. When planning our wedding, centerpieces and chair covers were our two main struggles. While trivial in life, the compromise and communication you need for a strong marriage are real regardless. We found a floral happy medium and the day was pure bliss sans chair covers. Though our struggles are much heavier now, the ability to get past them wearing a smile requires the same elements that they did over the trivial details years ago.
For four years, I thought that we had marriage mastered. It seemed effortless and comfortable. I was beyond blessed to bring two children into the world and though our house was small, our love was vast. Life was almost too good to be true with the love and health that surrounded my home.
Four years in, we were shaken. I think back often to the sixteen days we spent apart over the Christmas holiday of 2011. We managed to keep normalcy for our son and a pillar of strength present for our daughter. It was difficult not to fall apart altogether or find ourselves holding an umbrella that could no longer be repaired in the New Year.
When marriage forced us to talk about in sickness as the chronic illness of our child, it was more difficult than I could have ever imagined. We waited for answers. We waited for help. We waited in each other’s arms.
Five years of worry, tests, tears, joy, pain, trials, laughter and tribulations have always come back to one fundamental element: open communication. We have had differences in opinion regarding Kelsey since her first fever. Our love for her is infinite, but our ability to internalize all that we have watched her endure has its limitations.
Her recent bug bites left us with glaringly conflicting mindsets, and we could not get out of our own way. For the first time in nine years, we hurt each other so deeply that we did not speak for an entire day. I never understood how couples could get to that point until it happened to me. Isn’t that the case with anything, though? You never fully understand until you live it.
In marriage, you must speak freely and listen carefully. Having a child with a rare disease makes it even more critical to have open communication. If we are not a team, we would crumble entirely. Our support of each other directly enhances or divides our family. The choice is ours and it is not always easy.
Nine years later, I am happy to report that we say, “I do” once more. This year, I am a bit more informed than I was in 2007. Therefore, instead of Happy Anniversary, I would like to say:
I do love your patience and easy-going nature. You keep me grounded and calm.
I do love the way you look at me as though we first met. You steal me away.
I do love the man you were when I met you and the husband and father you have become in all of the days and years since. You are a better man than I dreamed you would be, and I had high expectations.
I do love the way you provide love, strength, and loyalty to our family and the way our children stare up at you with wonder and amazement. You are their hero.
I do love that you accept me for the girl I once was and the woman and the mother that I have become. You know it all and you love me still.
I do love you.
We approach a decade of love together with our flawed but faithful umbrella in hand. On our wedding day, we danced to Dave Matthews’ words “Troubles they may come and go, but good times they’re the goal… Steady as we go…”
I choose you today, tomorrow, and all the days to come, fully understanding the words.
In sickness and in health…
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