Later that night, once we had finally gotten all of the boys to bed, I grabbed a glass of water and prepared for bed myself. I could tell that Tim was lost in thought from the moment I entered the room. When I finally sat down on the bed, he remarked, "My parents had a really hard first ten years, didn't they?" They sure did. What tremendous loss they faced as such a young couple. What huge challenges even beyond the illness and the loss.
While I agreed with his sentiment, the first words that escaped my lips were, "Look at OUR first five years of marriage. We have had a VERY CHALLENGING first five years." And it's so true. Our vows have been tested and again throughout these first years. They have been pulled and tested in ways that I never imagined we would face so early on in our marriage. Sure I knew that there would be suffering and growth throughout the course of our marriage. Yes, I expected that there would be times for "sicker" and times for "poorer." I wasn't so naive as to think that there would not be "bad times" during our life together. But I was naive. I suppose I never gave it a conscious thought, but somewhere in me I just assumed that the good, healthy, and richer times would come first. Or, at the very least, I suppose I never factored in the possibility that those challenging times would come one after the other in rapid fire succession.
Ah young love. There we were, walking into the world hand in hand with NO IDEA what was headed our way.
On the day I married Tim I didn't know that only one year later my mom would be diagnosed with breast cancer and would have a mastectomy only three weeks before I was to deliver my first child. I didn't know that only eight months after that my own husband would suffer from a very serious illness which would lead to his being diagnosed with a chronic disease. I certainly wasn't expecting that two months before the birth of my second child my husband would be laid off and we would be spending the next several months getting his own company up and running, or that just one month after that my Father-in-law would be diagnosed with prostate and bladder cancer. While I knew that my grandparents were getting pretty old, it never really occurred to me that I would be so intimately involved in the details of my grandmother's illness and passing due to other damaged relationships within the family.
We talked about this for quite a while that night, agreeing that "Yeah, wow. We've definitely had a challenging go of it," but also agreeing that looking back? It doesn't seem like it was that bad. It doesn't seem like it was all that hard.
Of course it doesn't! The suffering, the challenges, seems so much less in my mind's eye than it did at the time because of all of the joys that were also thrown into the mix. Joys that, also, could not be anticipated or planned for.
The day I stood with him at the altar provided no revelation of how I'd discover my pregnancy with Christopher just two days before our first Christmas. There was no picture of my sweet Jacob who is so tender hearted that, when seeing my crying recently, grabs my legs and says, "Mom? Tay? Tay Mom?" (And to whom I respond, "yes Jacob. Mommy is okay" with a kiss and a huge squeeze.) We certainly had not the slightest inkling that we'd be moving into the house of our dreams and welcoming our third (THIRD!) precious boy, our darling Nathaniel, both within one week of each other.
And really? While I knew there would be suffering at some point (and even though those challenges presented themselves a leetle earlier than I'd anticipated) I also had no clue as to how much growth would come from those challenges - growth that I attribute ONE HUNDRED PERCENT to the fact that I had my best friend walking with me, holding my hand, and encouraging me to embrace the challenges with love. With compassion. With humility. With faith. With HIM.
Looking back on the conversation, I think we were both right. Yes, we have been dealt A LOT of challenges in these first five years. But no, they do not seem all that challenging in retrospect. They don't even seem "manageable" or "bearable." The only thing I see when looking back over this time is Joy.
And love. And faith. And friendship.
Yes, our vows have been tested. Yes, they will continue to be tested. There is always something coming down the pike. It's just the way that it is. But our history has proven that no matter what is coming our way we will greet it hand in hand, ready to embrace the challenge.