Down for the count
During his homily on World Marriage Day, the priest asked everyone who had been married less than a year to stand up. He then asked everyone married one to five years to also stand. Then five to 10 and so on, until he got to 50 plus married years. He looked around and paused. Slowly he said, “Now everyone who is married should be standing up, right?”
I knew why he was asking the question. I too was surprised. About half of the adults in the pews were still sitting. I was also sitting although technically still married. But in a few months my divorce would be final. And so I sat. I didn’t know I had so much company.
Looking around I thought, well some of these folks might be single, some widows or widowers, perhaps some are in a religious order. But there was no mistaking the single parents with children by their side. And there were lots of them.
Safety in numbers
I had heard that divorced Catholics make up a significant portion of a parish congregation. Still it was so easy to assume I was the only soon-to-be divorced gal entering St. Dominic’s on Sunday mornings.
Visually seeing all these people still sitting, my shoulders relaxed. I breathed a little easier. I certainly don’t wish to have this much company. But the moment confirmed that my having to face a divorce was not my own lonely experience. Lots of people, even practicing Catholics, had or were going through the same sometimes sad, angering, confusing, scary path. I belonged in this church and in this faith, even if my promise to stay married “till death do we part” wasn’t something I was able to do.
Months passed. Thursday was my last day of being married. Friday was my first day being divorced. I took the day off work Thursday after waking up feeling blue. A few hours of spring cleaning and my apartment was re-organized. A fresh start. Meeting up with a friend gave me the chance to cry?yet again.
As if getting a divorce isn’t bad enough, the death of a marriage relationship has hauled up every other loss I’ve ever gone through but perhaps not fully felt. Moving away and losing contact with childhood playmates. Petty fights that soured a few other friendships. The deaths of family and people I loved.
As I’ve grieved losing my husband, I’ve grieved all these other losses too. And I’ve realized that while I may not be with some people in the present, the great times we experienced have a permanent place in my heart.
The other side of loss
And so I called my ex a few hours before he was officially my ex to appreciate those fun, meaningful, close times together. We talked about gratitude, regrets, disappointments, forgiveness. It’s all mixed up together. Although having lost something, I’m thankful for ever having had it at all. In my better moments, gratitude wins out.
Friday morning I woke up in peace. Ready to begin my new life as a rookie divorced woman, I praised our God of Let’s Try Again. Jesus could have held a big-time grudge against his friends for having abandoned him. He didn’t. He understood the possibilities for something more on the other side of loss. In faith, I get glimpses of that too.