Yeah, I admit it. I tuned in.
I watched the Royal Wedding.
(I also watched The Barefoot Contessa, The Pioneer Woman, The Preakness Stakes, the end of the nightly news, and the NASCAR All-Star race that day. But I digress…)
I conjured up several excuses – I mean I had several good reasons – for watching. I’m up early anyway, so the time difference wasn’t an issue for me. As a retired pastor, I had plenty of “professional curiosity” about what the ceremony would be like with the interjection of an American preacher and a gospel choir into the traditional Church of England service. And, I’m a sucker for love stories. I had a good one of my own.
But there was also a significant amount of apprehension involved; I was well aware of how emotional and how completely bittersweet this could be for me, precisely because I had – past-tense – a good love story of my own.
We said those very same vows in our marriage ceremony that Harry and Meghan said in theirs.
To have and to hold, from this day forward…
It was all we ever wanted, and we wanted it to last forever.
For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health…
Been there. Done that. All of it and then some.
To love and to cherish, until death us do part…
And we did, and now it has, but…
I still love him.
Everything has changed. And yet, nothing has changed.
He’s no longer physically present with me, but I still love him as much as I ever did. Which laces all those precious memories with both deep joy and deep, deep sorrow.
That both/and is the hardest one for me to deal with. All those ‘anniversary events’ – the birthdays, holidays, family milestones and all the rest - are difficult, but our wedding anniversary is hands down the worst because of the timing. It is not-so-neatly sandwiched between that June day when Bill left our world and joined God’s and the day we committed his body to the earth he so lovingly tended for most of his life. A train wreck of days, and after watching The Wedding, I’m feeling it already.
It helps to remember that I’m not the only one on the planet dealing with this. Those wedding vows that Bill and I and Harry and Meghan (and maybe you) repeated name just a few of them, but life is full of both/ands of every shade and stripe, and all of us face them. There is both darkness and light in our world; joy and sorrow; good and evil; faith and doubt; strength and weakness; right and wrong; ups and downs; order and chaos, and a host of others. Some can be (after a certain amount of time) amusing, as in “one of these days, we’ll look back and laugh about this”. Some, while being sources of frustration or consternation, are fairly benign in the grand scheme of things. Some of them just make our hearts hurt.
I wish I could offer you a bullet-pointed list with tried-and-true instructions on how to navigate all of life’s both/ands. I can’t; as I said, I struggle with this too, and the struggle is very, very real. The landscape shifts from each one of these encounters to the next for me; sometimes the things I do to make my way through them help. Sometimes nothing does.
What I can offer you is solidarity, and some things to consider.
Where are you? Which of life’s both/ands is captivating your heart and mind today?
Whatever that particular thing is, however you’re feeling about it, own it. Look it in the eye and call it by its real name. While labels aren’t always helpful (as I mentioned last week) sometimes naming things can de-mystify them just enough to allow us to get a handle on them.
Do the best you can to deal with what’s there in whatever way you can. Give yourself permission to try anything that sounds even remotely like it *might* help. The mere attempt may be enough to give you the confidence and strength to continue moving forward.
Most importantly, remember you’re not alone in this. I’m right there with you, and where two or three are gathered, God, the One who is both Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, is there.