Three Augusts ago, Daniel and I stood under a tulle-covered arch, surrounded by a small cluster of family and friends (and one stray cat that made an appearance halfway through), and we said some big vows. With eyes locked on each other and hearts lodged in our throats, we strung words together one by one until they became big promises.
Looking back, I see now that we were like kids dressed in grown-up clothes, arms dangling in too-long sleeves and feet tripping over clown-like shoes. But that’s the only way to commit to something as big as “till death do us part,” I think. You put on the big promises and pray with everything in you that one day you’ll grow into them.
Just a day after our anniversary, Daniel’s grandparents celebrated sixty-one years of marriage. In six decades, they have raised a handful of children, doted on a dozen-plus grandchildren, and rejoiced over the births of several great-grandchildren.
But then, about ten years ago, Gramma Lo started forgetting things. It wasn’t long before the diagnosis came: Alzheimer’s. The disease that’s a thief, only it doesn’t take everything at once. It steals slowly—one memory, one mannerism, one life skill at a time.
In sickness and in health.
The day before Daniel and I got married, Papa Jack pulled out a small velvet bag. “I wish Gramma Lo could be here this weekend,” he said. “But I know she would have wanted to you to wear this.” He pulled out a simple, elegant string of pearls. “She wore this necklace at our wedding.”
For better or for worse.
On more than one occasion Daniel and I have tried to tell Papa Jack how much we admire him for the way he loves Gramma Lo during this season . . . the way he trims her nails, reads children’s books to her, and patiently endures her insistence that he is not her husband. But he brushes off our compliments and smiles as if to say, “This is not heroic. This is just what love looks like.”
Till death do us part.
As I watch Papa Jack and Gramma Lo, I’m starting to think that maybe love isn’t so much the grand gestures, the significant milestones, the scenes captured in photos. Maybe love is those small moments of choosing to love in the healthy times and the sick times, in the good times and the worse times. And maybe those little moments get strung together one by one, like pearls on a string—beautiful, shimmering, timeless. Something that can be passed on to the next generation, and the one after that.
Daniel and I have a long way to go before we grasp the kind of love we see in Papa Jack and Gramma Lo’s marriage. But by the grace of God and the examples set before us, we will wear these big vows until we grow into them.
And so we say it this year, just as we did three Augusts ago:
For all that is now and all that is to come, we do.