August. Days of sweltering, snaky heat. Yet he donned a black tuxedo with a black-and-silver striped ascot and got to the church on time.
In a back room, her bouquet of pink roses dripped on the front of her white gown, creating panic amongst the bridesmaids, but it didn’t stain.
The morning’s thunderstorm cleared and the sun was shining for all it was worth when the ceremony began at 1:00.
At 1:10 the preacher pronounced them husband and wife.
When they left the church hand-in-hand, the summer day was blinding – they shielded their eyes and made a run for it.
We’ve been running ever since, really.
For over three decades now. (I was a child bride. Well, sorta.)
As we mark another anniversary this week, I consider one of my favorite gifts from him, a bracelet he bought a couple of summers ago. We were at the beach for a few days, trying to get away from the daily demands, the stresses and strains – a lot was going on in life at the time. We went into a shop, and I saw it – a band with a metal plate reading I loved you at your darkest.
It pierced my heart, those words. The incredible forgiving, trusting, reliable power of them. The surety.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
I nodded, for I didn’t trust my voice at the moment.
And so he bought it. I wore it out into the brilliant August afternoon, holding tight to his hand.
We’ve come through many darknesses – losses of people we loved, various setbacks, our own inner dark sides. Seeing each other at our worst.
But we’ve also seen the best in each other.
Growing older means acknowledging that there are darknesses yet to come – watching his mother’s decline with dementia is a daily reminder. We will not always be as we were, as we are now. Our summer is brief.
Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, wrote Robert Browning.
It’s the togetherness, the commitment, the laughter at silly stuff, the embrace in the hardest moments, that drive the darkness away. The sacrifices. The faith that the sun will rise again tomorrow, and with it, hope. Abiding gratitude for every day.
It’s never the darkness that we carry with us anyway. It’s the knowledge that we walked through it together, to come out on the other side. Our minds, our hearts hold to what is good, what is bright. It propels us onward. Makes the entire journey worthwhile.
Especially when the journey almost wasn’t.
On the evening of our first date, I called to tell him I couldn’t go. I had a raging fever; I was being admitted to the hospital for tests.
“I am sorry,” I said into the phone, tears stinging my eyes. “Please don’t give up on me.”
“I won’t ever give up on you,” said his voice, strong and sure.
He never has.
I loved you at your darkest.
I did, I do, I always will.