I eavesdropped on a marriage-preparation volunteer training meeting Sunday during a post-Mass coffee hour.
It was a widow moment: Do I stay or do I go?
My message to soon-to-be married couples is a hard one, which doesn’t really jive with pre-wedding excitement. My message is that separation is inevitable, so hold tight while you can. Acknowledging the reality of death — and the hope of heaven — can help you love with abandon.
I learned this lesson on the first day that my husband, son and I were truly a family.
In the deceptive peacefulness of the intensive care unit, my husband and I held hands. I was on the hospital bed hooked up to many monitors; he was in the chair next to it.
Our little boy was in my arms. My blood pressure had spiked dangerously in the night, and I had been moved to the ICU. But I had missed my newborn son terribly. My husband said later that my blood pressure sank like a stone as I smelled the sweetness of my son’s scalp. He was an impossibly small bundle who was impossibly ours.
"You almost died," my husband said, breaking the silence.
"But I didn’t die," I said.
My husband held my hand tightly as if he would never let go.
We were a family. In the eyes of the church, we were a domestic church.
We had five months together before our church of three became a church of two. Still, in the middle of the night, I sometimes reach out my hand, waiting for a squeeze back.
So that is my message to engaged couples: Stretch out your hands and wait for the squeeze. Then, don’t ever let go.
Love with abandon, and acknowledge the reality of what’s to come.