"You need to come home. My Dad died."
"There are three heartbeats."
"You're overreacting, I'm sure Conor just has a bronchitis."
These are a few of the pivotal moments in our 10-year marriage. The first was the call I received from my husband while I was in Paris celebrating my mom's 55th birthday. The next was the unexpected news that we'd be having three more children (identical triplets) instead of the three in total we had planned. The last was my misinformed proclamation about my brother-in-law. I was wrong. He didn't have bronchitis; he had lung cancer. He died seven months later.
When I said, "I do," I knew our life together wouldn't be a fairy tale, but I never expected it to be quite so hard. I never expected so much life; we have five children in total and our oldest just turned 8. I certainly couldn't have anticipated so much death; we lost both of my in-laws and my brother-in-law in the span of six years. Our ups and downs have been extreme; we have been tested by the loss of parents, the loss of a sibling, a high-risk pregnancy, financial worries, job pressures, midnight feedings, early risings and never-ending "honey-do" lists, which these days, tend to lack the "honey."
With our 10th anniversary on the horizon this fall, I recalled the homily from our wedding. I'll never forget the sage words from our elderly priest. "Remember these three things," he told us. "Don't ever lose your sense of humor -- because you will need it. Don't ever lose your sense of self -- because that's what made you fall in love in the first place. And don't ever lose your sense of wonder -- the wonder and awe that you've found each other."
As I reflect on these words of wisdom from our wedding day in 2002, I realize it's that sense of wonder that wanes over the years. Remember what that feels like? Those early days when your heart skips a beat when he enters the room; when your pulse quickens at just the thought of him; when your every waking moment is dominated by the thrill of having found "the one"? Well, with my humor and sense of self thankfully still in tact, I am determined to rediscover that sense of awe and wonder. And, I'm reminded of another wedding homily.
My best friend was married in an ancient church atop one of Sienna's scenic hills. The fall sun was still scorching but the centuries-old church was dark and cool, the wisdom of ages emanating from the warped wooden pews. The crowd was hushed as vows were exchanged and the priest handed the newlyweds a jar. It was a simple ceramic jar -- rustic, yet beautiful in its Italian craftsmanship. He called it a "Marriage Jar" and on that day, the day these two became one, the jar was full; but the priest cautioned that as the years pass, the worries abound, the wonder dissipates and you may suddenly find that jar only half-full. Or less. And then, you're faced with a choice.
You can watch passively from the sidelines as your marriage jar leaks or you can vow to replenish it regularly; to keep a close eye on it; to treat it tenderly. To value it. Cherish it. Nourish it.
I'm ashamed to admit that I -- maybe we -- forgot about the Marriage Jar. It's been a tough 10 years. We suffered through life's most severe losses and were often too exhausted and overwhelmed to celebrate the small miracles and many blessings around us. We stopped celebrating our anniversary; not deliberately, it just kind of happened. There was the one when our daughter was just 6 days old and the one when we were in the hospital with two-day old triplets. There were others when there was just no money, no sitter, no time or no energy to recall and celebrate that October we first said "I do."
As we launch into our second decade, my husband and I are keenly aware that a good marriage -- like any good relationship -- is work. And yes, sometimes it's hard work. We know the road ahead will undoubtedly have its own twists and turns and more ups and downs. But now we have a "marriage jar" of our own. He gave it to me a few years ago and we now have it front and center -- right where it belongs. We are looking forward to the next decade and see it as an opportunity to refill that jar. To rediscover the wonder and awe that put us together in the first place. And to celebrating many, many more anniversaries... sitter or not!