I, Emilio, take you, Flavia, to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
I, Flavia, take you, Emilio, to be my lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
There is nothing remarkable about these vows. They have been spoken millions of times throughout the years by other couples in love. Yet in the moment, at this point in every ceremony, there is a hush in the room. It is at this moment that the two standing before each other become one in marriage. It's a magical moment, one in which many of us dreamed of having.
I try to imagine my parents, young, feeling immortal in many ways. Did they have the maturity, or foresight, to really look ahead and try to imagine how they were going to live out those vows? Did they know that they would raise four young men, and be emotionally tested on a daily basis as they struggled to provide a united front when faced with the challenges of raising children? Could they have known that for better or worse they would hang in there even at times when the sight of, or a word from, each other would make them want to scream or go running for the hills?
I often look back at the early photos of my parents, especially those they took during their courtship. What I see is a young, beautiful and pure girl standing alongside of a leather jacketed, greasy slicked back haired, rough and tumbled sort of a guy. It always confirms what I have often heard, that the right woman can tame the wildest of beasts.
My mother came from a very traditional Mexican Catholic family. Her parents were very old fashioned, and protective, of their seven beautiful daughters. They had two sons whose role was to always have a careful eye for whatever guy came sniffing around them. My mother lost her mother early in life, so about the time my father showed up, there was only her father there to stand guard at the front door. I can tell you this much, he had no interest in promoting the romance that was unfolding between his daughter and this hooligan of a guy. It wasn't until one day this young man showed up at his door, alongside his two parents, to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage that he saw beyond the rough exterior.
Oh how time changes everything, as by the time my brothers and I arrived, this young couple were living out their vows as they worked hard to provide a loving and spiritually guided home for their children. As each of us sons grew to maturity we each had a clear vision, and understanding, of what type of relationship we wanted in our life as well. We had lived day in, and day out, learning exactly what commitment meant.
My mother was a little ahead of her times. She sort of broke the mold of what was expected from a traditional Mexican woman. She sought an education, and in time found her vocation as an educator for high school and young adults. She always balanced this with an impeccably kept home and delicious food placed daily on the table for our family dinners. When we were sick, she cared for us. When we excelled, she cheered us on. When we faltered, she set us back on the right track. And when she was tested, she always responded with unconditional love.
For many years my mother had been sick. She endured ongoing hospitalizations, medical treatments and daily pain. My mother suffered, yet she continued to make every effort to provide for all of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. In spite of her suffering, my mother always had a sense of pride and dignity. My mother had these because of my father.
Sometime in the early hours of May 5, 2012, 56 years to the day, a not so young woman lay beside a not so young man, in the presence of God. They each had the wisdom to know that any day could be their last. Neither took the other for granted. Each laid there expecting to wake. One did. The other did not.
My father is a hero to everyone in my family. My father has been there for my mother every step of the way. For many years he met all of my mother's needs. For many years he put my mother needs before any of his own. For many years my father put his pride aside for the sake of hers. As the children of this loving couple, we have many reasons to be thankful. They have provided us with a strong foundation of love. They have taught us what the word 'love' truly means.
Committed love is not a fairy tale. It's not always easy or pretty. Committed love means you are there for it all. Committed love means that you are willing to present yourself to your spouse with all your gifts and imperfections. Committed love means you are willing to be there in sickness and in health, knowing that you may be the one standing alone when death does then part you.
I know that my mother is now at peace. I know that my mother is now in the presence of God, and surrounded by the many that have passed before her. I personally know of one angel who was there to greet her with a wide beaming smile and a round bald head.
Now we need to each step up and be a constant presence for my father. The days ahead of him will be very challenging. My mother once told me that there could be nothing more difficult for her than losing my father. After my husband died she felt it odd that one of her sons was already a widower, and was walking the grief journey before them. Yet I believe it now gives her comfort knowing that someone will be there to provide guidance.
My gift, our gift, of thanks to our mother will be to see that we take on the commitment she made to our father that someone will be there for him in sickness and in health, until death do us part.