Great Expectations

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By Matthew Janeczko, OFM Cap

Yesterday, I visited a mentor of mine from high school: he is confined to a lazy boy due to a recent stroke.  I could barely make out his words; he couldn’t move his right side and shook my hand with his left.  I brought him communion.  We both cried.  He’s only sixty years old and in his life, he has confronted, in no particular order, leukemia, a heart attack, another bout with cancer, and now a stroke.

His wife now works from home – she sat in an adjacent room, furiously looking over spread sheets and order forms.  She divides her time between work and taking care of her husband.

This wasn’t what they expected when they got married.

I spent Sunday evening with my parents.  They’ve been married since  1981.   They’ve had three sons.  My mother is a nine-year cancer survivor.  She still needs frequent check-ups and every blood test brings me to my knees, “Please, Lord, you know what to do…”

This wasn’t what they expected when they got married.

There’s a terrific woman I know, she has given her life to working within her parish.  Somehow the topics of names of children got brought up.  She spoke about her son’s name that she hardly got to use because he died when only few months old.  I found out afterwards she’s buried two sons.

This wasn’t what she expected when she got married.

The list could go on and on.

But I don’t think I need to do so.  I’m always taken when I witness a marriage by the promises the couple makes: to do something for a lifetime, to commit one’s self to another person until one of them isn’t (quite literally) around any longer.  I know that we don’t live in a fairy tale world and that there are plenty of reasons why these vows don’t persist until the end (and sometimes, there are very good reasons for this).  But in reviewing the posts these past weeks about marriage (and we’re expecting more in the coming days), I can’t help but stand in awe, not of weddings, but of marriages.  They’re so incredibly beautiful precisely because they’re so unexpected: the sorrows and joys, the hopes and the fears.

But I need to stop writing at the moment, because I need to meet with a couple about their wedding.  I know what to say about that day, but their marriage? It won’t be what they’re expecting.

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