Eleven years ago, a starry-eyed young couple stumbled tearily through their wedding vows in a simple little church surrounded by a small group of friends and family.

They celebrated after with cake, finger foods, and lots of hugs and well-wishes. Showered with bubbles, they waltzed off into their life together.

Sometimes I look at that girl in the photos and reminisce about those days. We were so happy and so carefree. We used to come home from work, eat dinner together, then go to the gym or the grocery ridiculously late at night. We slept in until 10am on Saturdays. We sang in the church choir, volunteered our time as newsletter editors for a local writing group, and took our dog to obedience school. We snagged a perfectly-good couch out of a dumpster a couple of rows from our townhouse one night (and we still have that couch today). Those were the good ol’ days.

We still laugh together and enjoy each other’s company (though we don’t gallivant about nearly so late at night). But walking through hell on earth together has changed us both. We thank God that our relationship has deepened, not imploded, through the tears and the pain, the misunderstandings and the tantrums, the fear and the grief.

Life never turns out like we think it will, not for anyone. Everyone’s dreams for the future get shattered in one way or another. Jobs don’t work out. You never find a special someone to share your life with. You’re unable to bring children into your family. Or you have children with serious illnesses or who make horrible choices or who are attacked by someone they should be able to trust or who are victims of terrible accidents. You develop your own serious illness, make horrible choices, or are victim of someone else’s horrible choices. You are abandoned by the one person who makes a public vow to stay with you til death. And the list goes on.

I wish, sometimes, that we had more realistic expectations for the future. Maybe these things wouldn’t blindside us in such an utterly devastating way.

I look at the girl in the wedding photo and know that she has absolutely no idea how bad things can and will get. And I really wonder if that’s the best way to start out a new life. We have made it this far, by the grace of God. But we’re one of the very very few, and that’s so tragic.

Happy anniversary to the one person in this world
who I never tire of being around.
Thank you for standing by me through all these eleven years have brought,
for hugging me through the disappointments, fears, and pain,
for crying with me in the midst of our losses,
for tackling the challenge of our children’s medical situations as a full partner,
for being such an unconditionally-loving father to our four children,
and for putting up with all my flaws.

I love you!