Joe and Peg, March 16, 1991

Today Joe and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  China being the traditional gift on this anniversary, tonight we will dine on our seldom used good dishes, and for dessert I am making our now customary raspberry bride’s cake from the Cake Mix Doctor, evoking a remembrance of our actual wedding cake.   In one way, 20 years seems like a very long time, yet if we both live a full life span, we could be together more than twice this amount.  I hope we are!

Yesterday I attended the funeral of my 44-year-old cousin, a wife of not very many years and mother of a young son, who died of breast cancer after a courageous battle with the disease.  In his homily, the priest shared that he had asked God, “What are we to learn from this death?  What are we to make of it?” as he prayed for guidance on what to preach.  The answer came in the form of an article, reporting on a survey that asked people what they had learned from their life so far, handed to him by a parishioner early that morning.  Some of the answers were humorous.  A 7-year-old had learned that you can’t hide broccoli in milk.  An 80-year-old said that he had learned that just because you’re in pain, doesn’t mean you need to be a pain.  But the priest focused on the response of a man who had lost his wife, who said, “I’m always grateful for the life that we had.”

That phrase keeps coming to me like a mantra, especially the choice of words.  He didn’t say he was grateful for the time they’d had, but the life.  “Time” sounds finite, like something you could pack in a box or measure, flat and homogeneous, monochrome, while “life” connotes vibrancy, movement, color, flavor, richness and texture.  Whether the marriage was five years or 50, the life was real and meaningful.  Over the past weeks, I’ve had many thoughts about marriage and our relationship and how we’ve grown, but that man’s response expresses them all very concisely.

I’m always grateful for the life that we have.