My husband and I celebrate twenty-eight years of marriage today, May 17th. Bruce, as most of my friends know, was my professor before he was my husband. I got free tuition when I married him. He was thirty-four and insecure. I was twenty-nine and damaged. On one of our early dates, we went to the temple. I quietly prayed that we would be able to do sealings after the endowment session–a rather odd request, I know, but it seemed terribly romantic.
So there we were in the Celestial Room. A worker entered and announced, “We need couples to do sealings. Can anyone here help?” I congratulated God on his quick work, and told Bruce we ought to accept the invitation. He looked slightly panic-stricken. But he said yes. Then, on the way to the sealing room, he nervously told the sealer that we weren’t married. “Oh,” the sealer said, “that doesn’t matter. Aren’t you going to get married?”
“That’s not decided,” said Bruce.
“You look like you should be married,” said the sealer.
Soon, there we were, at our wedding rehearsal in the temple.
Bruce was so frightened of marriage that I believe he had to actually picture himself as a groom, and had to put a real face on his bride. As it happened, my face wasn’t what he had long imagined. He had wanted an olive-skinned, dark-haired beauty, not a pale redhead with barely visible eyebrows. I suspect I met only a few of the qualities he had on his checklist (he’s never told me). Nonetheless, there I was, and we were rehearsing.
We now meet for lunch every Saturday at the temple, during my break in my temple service. Bruce is a bishop, and I am still a redhead. I think if he made out a new checklist, it would be completely based on me. That’s because I’d write it. Marriage works that way–a few little compromises, and sometimes the complete surrender of your own agenda or the way you had always imagined things would be.
We continue to weather surprises. Our oldest son no longer considers himself LDS. The little girl I once held and cuddled in her infancy sometimes needs me to hold her again for hours as she suffers from a panic attack. I attend LDS Addiction Recover services with another of my children, who is determined to become clean and sober. The disappointments downed me for a time, and I found I couldn’t say much without crying. So I went on anti-depressants, and exchanged much of my energy for the ability to sing hymns without weeping.
Was I rehearsing for the hours I would hold my grown daughter when I held her in her infancy? I would not have imagined it. Was I rehearsing for my son’s addiction when I lost him in London’s largest toy store and frantically looked for him until I found him on the stairs? He leapt into my arms, saying, “Why did you leave me?” Was that rehearsal a reminder that later in life, when he was lost in other ways, I must not leave him?
I see brides at the temple most Saturdays and love the joy and hope in their faces. Yet I know that they can’t imagine what kind of stretching their married life will demand. Nor do I know what awaits me. I do know that my favorite moment of the day is when I get into bed with my husband, put my arm around his stomach, and lay my head on his chest. We are together, growing in love which finds new dimensions continually.
Rehearsals are good things. I consider that I’m rehearsing for death as I stand at the veil–but a death that has no fear or pain attached, only faith and hope and eternal promise. I am rehearsing for glorious roles beyond this life as I put on my ritual clothing. Of course, the rehearsal is nothing like the real thing. Just as “playing house” only hints at what family-making really involves (“Let’s make this really interesting and pretend that the baby has an eating disorder!”), so our other rehearsals perhaps accomplish only one truly important thing: they allow us to imagine ourselves in a place or a relationship that is otherwise beyond our comprehension, perhaps even beyond our will.