Last week began with a phone call in the dark hours of Monday morning and ended 1,233 miles away in Miamiville, Ohio. In other words, it began with a death and ended in a wedding; and along this arc between one human experience and another, I felt a Merlin-esque sense of aging backwards, of seeing still-young friends gathered in hope and celebration while at precisely the same time, my wife attended her 48-year-old aunt’s funeral.
A friend says that the more you cry, the more room you make in your head for information. He was trying to put a silver lining on being a frazzled medical student–but there is some general wisdom here, too. As two people who do not often cry, my wife and I felt sort of blown open by loss and love. And this is good. Because life is short, and it’s hard to remember exactly what love is, and all the forms it takes; but when I found myself crying at Mari’s bedside and several days later at Faith’s wedding, moved by emotions I couldn’t articulate, my mind kept traveling back to a wordless sense of how much I loved my wife and how much we depend on each other’s love. And from that, I felt more empathy than I thought possible for Mari’s bereaved family, and for Faith and Travis’s joyful new marriage.
As a writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about the human experience. And I probably spend more time than is good thinking about politics and arguments and fairness and what “ought to be done.” But weddings, funerals, reunions, babies, journeys, dreams at night; we can’t control those, but they remind us of ourselves in relation to other people. Faith and Travis’s minister knows this, too, because after the “I do’s,” he asked for a series of “We will’s” from the audience; e.g., “We will recognize their union,” “We will listen without judgment when they need us.” Modern marriage creates vows between all people in a community, not just the bride and groom, because those ties will be important as life gives us more and more events beyond our control.
My wife and I, we had no wedding. DADT existed at the time, and DOMA still exists. Sometimes I hedge on talking about my personal life, out of fear that when I say “wife” the person I’m talking to will startle a little behind their eyes and I’ll see it; and then have to embark on a lot of aimless chattering while they figure out whether their opinion of me is different because I’m not as heterosexual as they had assumed. (It happens about 30 percent of the time. And it’s always uncomfortable.) But this weekend at the wedding I couldn’t help talking about my wife because I missed her so much, and in return, I was met with the most commonplace and kind responses. People asked me about her. We talked about our spouses, our jobs, our homes.
And likewise, 1,233 miles away at the funeral, my wife’s family asked her where I was and said to say hi.
We are married, one friend and family member at a time, every day. And this is what I want to say: There is nothing more political than living in your own skin honestly.