After 27 years of marriage, my husband died unexpectedly while lifting weights on a Friday morning. The moment I found his unresponsive body, chaos entered my life.
At the hospital, my son and I sat in a private waiting room. When three medical professionals entered, I knew he was gone.
But since he died, I’ve learned some profound truths about death and marriage…
Marriage Truth #1: Death doesn’t destroy a relationship.
When a spouse dies, all the feelings we have for them are alive and well. That’s why the loss feels so huge – one half of our matrimonial unit still functions, while the other half is strangely silent. At least that’s what I’ve experienced. My love for this man, and my commitment to him, still flow strong. Insurance companies and financial institutions can remove his name from our joint accounts. But nothing can remove him from my heart because…
Death means that the relationship we had morphs into something new. And it’s my job to discover my new role in that changed relationship, to reconcile my life with his death. And that leads to the most important thing I’ve learned…..
Marriage Truth #2: Death means we live in the house that love built.
When a spouse dies, we live with the results of the cumulative effort we put into the relationship. If the marriage was filled with crap, we’re left with a cesspit of dysfunction. But if it was filled with the consistent effort of two committed people to correct errors, we’re left with a warm embrace and gratitude. And that eventually helps buffer the huge loss. (Not make it go away, just make it a bit more bearable).
When my husband died, we each knew that we were fiercely devoted to one another. We loved each other and enjoyed each other’s company. But we did not have a perfect marriage: we were just two imperfect humans committed to making it work. With remarkable differences, this love and fierce devotion made us perfectly suited for each other.
After more than two decades together, we each learned to take responsibility for our own part of marital challenges. We worked hard to build a solid foundation for our relationship. At various times, divergent religious beliefs, political views, money disagreements, and more serious things huffed and puffed against the house that our love built. But it stood, surprising some friends and family.
So now I’m still living in the solid house that love built. Our children have witnessed our efforts to correct what was wrong. And I live with gratitude for the effort we put into our marriage.
What this means for your marriage:
If you’re married, you’re living in a house that love built. But like the Three Little Pigs, you have a choice of building materials and of effort expended. What you choose matters, because the Big Bad Wolf of Relationships huffs and puffs on almost all marriages at some point.
If you ignore problems, and take your marriage for granted, the house that love built may be no stronger that one of straw or sticks. But if you each look in the mirror and ask, “What needs to change in me?”, and you each work to make those changes, the house that love built is like one of bricks. Safe from the Big Bad Wolf of Relationships.
I lived a love story for almost three decades. Sometimes it seemed like a fairy tale, and other times we each starred in the other’s nightmare. And that’s okay, because real life love stories are messy. The husband and wife are imperfect. They struggle individually and together. But if they are equally committed to make marriage work, the house that love built becomes solid.
And that’s what I wish for you – to live in a solid house that love built. Not out of fear for what death may one day bring. But for the beauty of what marriage can mean while you live it.
What do you think about what I’ve learned? Speak your mind in the comments.
Gina – this was beautifully written! God will surely use you to help many others who go through similar circumstances. And what a beautiful picture you painted of marriage.
Beautifully written Gina. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I will keep your wise words in mind – “what needs to change in me?”
There are so many truths in this. Love is not an emotion or a feeling, love is a deliberate choice that we make every day to stay committed and to stay married no matter what we face. I pray if I am ever faced with the hand you have been dealt I will somehow be able to see that side of our love. You are an amazing pilar of strength, Gina!
Thank you for sharing so powerfully about the realities of a house that love built! Martin and I have been married 32 years and I identify with so many of the things you say about two imperfect people being fiercely committed to our marriage.
“And that’s what I wish for you – to live in a solid house that love built. Not out of fear for what death may one day bring. But for the beauty of what marriage can mean while you live it.”
It has been 10 years since my husband of almost 40 years died unexpectedly. Gina, every single thing you say rings exactly true in my ears. On my side I continue to evolve because of that relationship, knowing that nothing can be added to living life together, but nothing and no one can take anything away from it either. The time we spent together has a wholeness that is part of me and still helps make me who I am. Now that I married again, none of that has changed. These arte beautiful true words.