We married in 1960. The service was conducted by the chaplain of the S.U. chapel and as I recall the ending of the marriage vows finished with the phrase which is the subject of this post. This is then followed by the exchange of rings and the service is almost complete. I do have a Lutheran hymnal published in 1978 and it ends with a promise …I promise to be faithful to you until death parts us. Then the ring ceremony. So, the wording is less archaic than the vow we took, as well as I can remember it, but very similar. The current Lutheran service actually gives two suggested vow endings. The first ends with the phrase….until death parts us. So quite similar to the endings I just quoted. The second ending closes with …as long as we both shall live.
I recently attended a wedding at my church and the couple, both in latter middle age at least, I would guess, chose the second ending. Then the ring exchange. So, the ending they chose has more emphasis on life, but implying at least that it will be of a finite length. I go into this because the wedding service was one of those events that can cause unexpected grief and it did so for me.
It is now getting on to two years since Marge died and I have still been wearing my wedding ring from so long ago. I had thought occasionally that I should remove my wedding ring at some time, in the future. The effect of the service I attended was that continuing to wear my ring was a form of denial since Marge and I do not both live, she has died and I have survived her. We by death, as we so blithely vowed when we were oh, so young, are now parted. Then we were going to live forever. We did for a long time, but not forever. The time had come to recognize this by removing my ring.
I did this and it was much more gut-wrenching and painful than I had imagined. My whole left hand felt oddly different. I think the ring has been on my hand all those years with the exception of a few times when I had to remove it for some form of medical scanning. The ring had become a part of me, but no longer an appropriate appendage. After struggling with this sensation and what to do about it, I came to a response that satisfies me.
Way back in 1980 when we first moved here, I had my 44th birthday in November of that year and we decided to celebrate it by playing tourist, staying at a hotel for Friday and Saturday night, seeing some shows, shopping dining, etc. We had, as a family, some unexpected situations to deal with that year and had done so. The girls were old enough to take care of themselves and we gave them our hotel phone number, and of course we could call home easily.
It was a very pleasant relief to step outside the day-to-day routine, even for a few days, and play tourist. Marge surprised me with the gift of a gold ring which I really liked. On my right ring finger, I wear a gold nugget ring that Marge had made as a gift for me which includes a gold $10 coin that had been my maternal grandfather’s. This gift was also a surprise maybe 25 years or so ago. I decided to replace the wedding ring with the birthday ring. The ring fingers on both hands are now balanced with these thoughtful gifts from Marge. Now my left had feels whole again and I have acknowledged to myself that I am no longer married but widowed.
This transition has been more difficult for me that I at first thought it would be. However, I think it was another step in slowly coming to terms with my residual grief. Quite likely there may be more, though I am looking forward to the future, doing some new things, making a trip or two, etc.