I’ve attended three weddings this year. I’ve heard of many widows who hate or avoid going to weddings but I don’t really feel that way. That’s not a new development for me; I attended 3 of my best friends’ weddings (within my self-set boundaries) and was a bridesmaid in my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in the three to six months after Mike died because I wanted to be there and be a witness and part of their joy (they would all have all graciously excused me). However, it is certainly not the same experience that it use to be for me and I have a different attitude and perspective attending than I once had.
I think the expression of love at weddings is beautiful and I’m so happy I got to experience that with Mike. I feel lucky for that. I’m glad when I go to weddings that the people get to experience that too. Obviously, my love story with Mike after our wedding was not what I expected and that’s where the “different” experience comes in.
The vows the bride and groom say to one another is the part that stands out to me the most now. It also is the part that makes me a bit uneasy. The weight and promise of those words is so enormous. I reflect on my own promise I made, what I think of it now, and my future moving forward.
I understand the thinking behind the “until death do us part” promise but I just don’t find it actually works that way. When someone dies, you don’t feel like you’re not married to them anymore. It’s not a clean break. It’s not a breakup or divorce. I still felt very much married. Death doesn’t make you stop loving them. It is just no longer reciprocated.
Beyond “until death do us part,” I think it makes more sense when brides and grooms also often say that they will love and honour their spouse for all the days of their life. It’s an individual choice as opposed to a joint one. It is carried out regardless of the other person. I think that is really sweet and also very true. I will love and honour Mike for all of my life. It’s a beautiful, huge promise.
That promise and knowledge of knowing I’ll love Mike for the rest of my life has added complications in it for me now. I am a widow who is dating and I think of how that must feel to the person I am with. Choosing to be with me means knowing you can never be “my one and only” and I can’t imagine that is easy; no matter how much love I have to give. David knows I’ll always love Mike and he accepts that and doesn’t expect or want me to change. But I feel sad that I will also love someone I’m not with for my life. It feels unfair to the person I’m with and also to me.
The purity and innocence of others’ uncomplicated vows of love make me feel, ya, a bit bitter and jealous. Words like, “I’ve waited my whole life to find you” or “I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love you” or “you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me” always startle me and bring me back to my reality. They’re not simple, easily accessible words to me. It doesn’t make the love I have to give any less than but sometimes, especially at weddings, it feels that way. It feels like my love is limited instead of expanded and deep. It feels like my emotions and feelings are or will be misunderstood. While I know that I can have two best things in my life that isn’t the easiest to convey or for others to understand. It’s possible that more than once, you’ve never loved anyone as much, in different ways with different parts of the heart with everything there is to give. It’s not simple or straightforward.
But it is very aware. Words like “our life,” and “forever” that are thrown around at weddings don’t sneak past me unnoticed. I think about what it really means. I know what it really means. I know that the “rest of OUR lives” doesn’t really exist. That one will always have and know it as “our” life but for the other, at some point, the “our” will turn to “my.” I understand the weight of that; for better or for worse. Promises that are truly with you always. An honour but also a heavy load.