(I photographed this image of our hands just months after Mike and I started dating… I always envisioned the new relationship after Drew’s death to be this… two equal partners helping each other navigate the mud and blood of life.)
Today marks exactly one month since Mike and I went to the courthouse and got married. Since that day, we’ve gone on a short honeymoon, and a short family trip with Shelby, both trips on the road, in the camper, staying socially distant. None of this was the original plan.
Then again, our very life together was not the original plan for either of us! Somehow, no matter which version of getting married happened, it didn’t feel less special. It didn’t feel less special because we couldn’t have a big wedding. It didn’t feel less special because Mike and Megan had been married before, or because I never got the chance to marry Drew before he died. Our honeymoon didn’t feel any less filled with joy because it was a plan B option.
Maybe, actually, it is because of all of this that it was even more special. Because we decided that we weren’t putting off this milestone in our life any longer because of a virus. We may have postponed in June, but it wasn’t going to stop us again. And because we’ve both known what it means to lose our partner, we know exactly the kind of pain we are both inevitably agreeing to. And because of how things have been shut down this year from COVID, we know how fortunate we are to have been able to go on any sort of honeymoon that felt safe as well as joyful.
Mike and I were talking the other day, and it was interesting to hear the differences about this month for each of us. So we’re sharing a bit of that today…
I’ve asked many people before when they get married “Does it feel different?” Most people say no, that it feels just the same as before – especially if you already lived together and all. For me, the answer to this is an unequivocal YES. It has felt so different in such wonderful ways.
In part, I think it comes from my unmarried widowhood. From the fact that some 8 years ago, I would have been doing this and experiencing this with the man I loved, and it was taken away. And that loss solidified a belief inside me that I was undeserving of such love and happiness. So to be here now with Mike, with a man I love just as fiercely as Drew, has righted that wrong in a way. It has quieted that voice of doubt that said I didn’t deserve to be married, because well, guess what, I AM! We are doing the damn thing and I’m not letting that old story be in the way. And whether it lasts a few months or 50 years, I deserve to know this kind of love. I deserve to have a man like Mike, who always has my back, makes me laugh, and keeps me on my toes. We all deserve that kind of love.
I am still keenly aware that things can change without warning at any moment. Because Drew died so suddenly, I will never be able to get that out of my head. But I am using that fact to stay here, in the moment, appreciating each day we get to have together. Trying to focus more on quality time and laughter and love and less on the mundane things like whether the house is clean or dinner is figured out perfectly.
I didn’t expect it to feel different. We’ve lived together for some time. Hell, even all our finances have been shared for years now. And I was just as committed to Mike before being married, but there was something so powerful about saying those vows “until death do us part” as two widowed people and knowing exactly what you’re saying. You’ve been parted by death before. For me, crossing that threshold almost felt like a deepening of a commitment – both to Mike and to my own happiness – that I didn’t even know could be deepened further.
Does it feel different? Not really. The better question is “Does it feel special?”, which is an unequivocal “Yes”. Much of that stems, of course, from being married for 9+ years in the past. I’ve been married. I’ve taken, and fulfilled, my vows once before. Taking those vows once again didn’t, and doesn’t make me feel different about Sarah and I, for it has felt like a “no-brainer” for years now.
Proposing (and hearing “yes” in return) felt different. Being engaged felt different. Being married though…it just feels “special”. It’s almost a final milestone. The “zenith” of what Sarah and I can “officially” do together. The next real step is, unfortunately, death. Sure, we can renew our vows at some point, or yearly, if we desire, but even then, it won’t feel any different from when I said it on October 8th. We can’t get “extra married”, I guess.
It’s because I’ve been in it for the long haul for years now, and I truly know and feel what that means. I suppose that if there is a difference, it’s that it has been easier to take the leap with Sarah, precisely because I don’t know when or how she is going to die. I can be with her in the moment, rather than worried about next month or next year. When I married Megan, there was a switch that flipped. Not so with Sarah…the proposal was that switch.
There hasn’t been any feeling of “locking things down” now that we’re married. I wouldn’t have proposed if I felt any doubt in the first place. We’ve lived together for almost 5 years now. Sarah is Shelby’s mom. She runs the house, and keeps me in check. She makes sure that she does something every day that makes me love not only her, but Megan as well, a bit more each day.
Officially marrying didn’t change any of that. It means that I can finally call her my wife. We can finally change our titles from widowed to married. We can finally just be together, without having to worry about the next step, because the next step is not a matter of “if”, but “when”, just like it was with Megan, only the “when” was “pretty soon”.
I just hope “when” is a long, long time from now.