Til Death Do Us Part – What Does That Mean?

What is a vow? What is a contract? Are they the same? This past week has been an emotional quagmire! A little over five months after my husband died my niece got married. We had the amazing opportunity to have all of our family in one place at one time. That is really saying something when we live in Chicago, Denver, Memphis, Augusta, and Atlanta! The last time we were all together was for my Dad’s funeral many years ago.

So, why the quagmire? Lots of things – some I was expecting and some took me completely by surprise. The first known emotionally-laden piece of this amazing event was just getting there. I decided to drive. That was a good decision for me. I drove 2100 miles alone. I learned that getting ready for a trip is much harder when only half of the planning team is there! I learned that I love to see different geography. I love the mountains – and hate high places! That could be a problem, but it was OK for this trip. I really missed my driving buddy. He was a quiet man, but in the car was where we solved all of the world’s problems and redesigned our house innumerable times. It was hard not having him there physically. Twenty one hundred miles is a long drive!

The second learning was that at five and a half months after Bob’s death, I still have trouble being “on” with lots of people. I just want to pull in and heal, or recreate, or whatever it is that I am doing. I have an incredibly loving family and I did not have to put a false face on at all. I realize that I have gotten used to a good bit of alone time. As you can imagine, there was not a lot of alone time at a wedding. And, none of “my” stuff was there! Like my bed and my chair, so sleeping was not as restful as it is when I am home. And with all of that, seeing everyone was truly wonderful! Such contradictory feelings so much of the time.

The very biggest surprise, and the one that caught me totally off guard was listening to the wedding vows. There were lots of other parts of what was a beautiful ceremony, but the words that screamed to me were “ ’til death do us part.” What hard words to hear and what thoughts they triggered. Those thoughts are the reason for writing this.

I know that Bob is no longer on this plane. We have precious little information about how to carry on a relationship between the various Worlds of God. I know that isn’t a problem for God, but I have been trying to wrap my head around that idea since hearing those vows. We were married in a church that I am pretty sure used those same words – ’til death do us part. I know that we no longer have a physical union and relationship. The thoughts that came from who knows where were “So, since we are now parted by death is the vow (or the contract) null and void? Is the contract completed or fulfilled and therefore ended? What do either of those mean for me here and now?” In legal terms it would mean that we no longer have responsibilities to each other. Well, that feels very wrong. Obviously, love still exists between us. And, for the past five and half months, I have been trying to figure out what our new relationship is. Since we were married we both became Baha’is. The Baha’i marriage vow is very simple, “We will all verily abide by the Will of God.” That does not have any temporal referents, so how do those two vows mesh with each other. I did a quick (emphasis on quick!) Google search on marriage vows. It seems that most of the great religions have a reference to the marriage contract being limited to this world. I think that they mesh pretty well. We have a pretty clearly defined relationship in this world and at death that relationship stops. And we don’t have much information about how it changes into something else or what that something else is. I do not believe that it dissolves, it just changes. What I have been pondering is how it changes. What are our new responsibilities to each other and to ourselves? Many years ago I was told that the children of a marriage should not “hang on to” the Mom or the Dad. They should hang on to (depend on) the relationship that the Mom and Dad have created with each other. I see my children (both grown with their own children) struggling with how to handle all of those feelings that come up when there is now a huge hole in their lives. Is it Bob’s and my responsibility now to maintain a spiritual union that gives them a solid something to fall into as they struggle with their loss. I have been so aware that I cannot help either of them “feel better” about their loss. And a Mom’s main role in life is to help her children feel better! (Somewhere that was written in Motherhood 101, I think.) I am also aware that I must take care of myself or there is no way I can be of any assistance to them. What a hard path to find and then walk!

Emotional bomb #3 was at the reception when they had all married couples on the dance floor and then had them drop out when years of marriage were called out. My sister and her husband were the last on the dance floor at 44 years of marriage. Bob and I were married 47 years. I had to leave the room on that one and have a few private tears.

And the final piece (at least the final one I see now) is how excited we all were that all of my parents’ descendants were going to be there. All four kids, all of the grandchildren and great grandchildren. None of us mentioned, however that Bob was not there. Perhaps that was the elephant in the living room.

Now some noteworthy things since I have been home – just over 48 hours. I know that I can drive just about anywhere that I want to – by myself! The idea of a contract being completed somehow feels right. Now the new contract needs to be discovered. I promptly got sick – stuffy nose, cough, low grade fever; and I got an itchy bug bite on the trip home. If you believe Louise Hay those symptoms mean: Runny nose – inner crying and asking for help; stuffy nose – not recognizing self worth; cough – a desire to bark at the world “See me! Listen to me!”; a fever – anger, burning up; and a bug bite – guilt over small things. That is an interesting assortment of feelings! All of those seem so on target, except anger. I suspect that is my blind spot that I need to explore as the energy and inclination arise.

As I reach the six-month anniversary mark, it looks like some changes are in the wind. I am truly curious as to what they are and how I will evolve.