Kept Until Void
Promises must be considered well
Promises made ought to be kept
Kept regardless of effort expended
Kept despite circumstance or desire
Desire for others must be spurned
Desire for this commitment comes first
First we put aside the standard fare
First we searched and thought and talked
Talked about what we wanted to promise
Talked about the love we planned to live
Live together as lovers companions and friends
Live each day to honor the vows we made
Made together and spoken together
Made us stronger in every breath and choice
Choice always there to just walk away
Choice always to simply forswear those vows
Vows made from the deep places of my heart
Vows promised from the deeper home of my soul
Soul that resonated naturally with his
Soul that reveled in the many joyful times
Times when we were accomplices in mischief
Times when we were the fiercest adversaries
Adversaries each battling to be right
Adversaries became allies and partners
Partners striving to partner equally
Partners in parenthood and in marriage
Marriage begins with those spoken vows
Marriage ends when all vows lose meaning
Meaning that can only exist during life
Meaning that becomes potent as death nears
Nears the point where those other vows rule
Nears the endpoint of till death us do part
Part us with the cancer that steps in
Part and parcel now of a married life
Life twists and turns on a dime
Life subsiding and need rising
Rising vows demand to be met
Rising commitment to give honor
Honor in the tending of a dying mate
Honor in seeing to the hard places
Places that scrape heart and soul raw
Places that are the opposites of ease
Ease for him is utmostly important
Ease for me a thing of past and future
Future when he has died and need ended
Future where these vows will be null and void
Void of the life to be lived on without him
Void filled with the memories of a great love
A bit of trivia: Jim and I were “married” twice.
Because our families lived on opposite sides of the continent, none of his family or friends were able to make it to our official, licensed wedding on August 23, 1997, on my parents’ deck in upstate New York. We’d decided on the date and orchestrated a very simple ceremony in only six weeks, because we realized we just didn’t want to wait, when we both already knew we wanted to be married (there was some speculation that I was pregnant, but Jeremiah, our eldest, didn’t make his arrival until 2001).
But we didn’t want to exclude his family, either. So, when our season at the Grand Canyon was over, we made a leisurely trip through Arizona and California, then up the Oregon coast and inland to Eugene – and, on Thanksgiving Day, when his whole family could be there, we were unofficially married again by Jim’s uncle, who was a minister.
For our first ceremony, I found non-traditional vows in a wedding book. They fit our love: they began, “I promise to be your lover, companion, and friend. Other lines included being one anothers’ best ally in adversity and fiercest adversary, accomplice in mischief, and partner in parenthood.
We have been all those things to each other – imperfectly.
For the second wedding, Jim requested we use the traditional vows his uncle was comfortable with. There was a slight quibble over the word “obey”, which I would neither promise, nor allow Jim to promise me. Married people shouldn’t be cast in an obedience relationship – not if they’re going to be equal partners.
But I promised to love him and keep him, in sickness and in health, till death us did part – and I meant it.
I didn’t expect that, only 20 years later, I would be living the truth of those vows with a sickness that resulted in death, and which, along the way, rendered the man who stood beside me helpless as a newborn.
But when that time came, I’m proud to say that I gave myself to my vows. I’m a bit less proud that sometimes exhaustion, fear, frustration, and grief at all that was lost and would be lost meant that I did it all imperfectly and with less than a willing spirit – but, even then, I accept that I am, in the end, only a human being, and will err at times.
I would have happily honored those vows another forty years, if I could have – but I am intensely grateful for the years I was able to do so.