"We don't fulfill our covenants. We just live them out."
When two become one, so do their stories.
He became the "man of the house" at five, when his dad abandoned the family. A very bad uncle stole her belief in her innocence. They married. He promised to be safe and true, and almost always was. She promised to trust him, but it never came easily. They had three boys by the time they were 25. Money was tight. Time was scarce. For years it felt like they lived parallel lives just keeping things moving forward. At 35, she found a lump, went through treatment, and won. At 45, his company nearly went bankrupt, and he remembers contemplating his first felony. At 53, his company nearly went bankrupt again, and she was stunned to learn that it wasn't the first time. That almost ended the marriage. The kids never knew any of this.
Ten years ago, their middle son checked into rehab for the first time, and blamed his issues on them. They helped him as they could, but eventually he cut ties. They get their updates through his brothers and their wives now.
Two years ago, at 68, her cancer returned. Treatments yielded little result. There's a clinical trial her oncologist recommends, but they've decided it's time to stop fighting, and to focus on putting things in order.
It's sooner than they wanted things to end, and it's heartbreaking, but it isn't tragic. None of the journey has been. For years, layers of foundation were laid, and they didn't really see it. In the past year they've learned to communicate fearlessly with one another. Some of what they've uncovered has been very hard, but the biggest discovery was just how profoundly they're intertwined now. They wanted to tell the boys, the daughters-in-law, and the grandchildren how grateful they are for the time they've had together, and how much difference there is between grief and tragedy. They wanted to prepare everyone for her death, and to give them all something to carry forward as a family. They wanted it to be a shared story, because it's been, in the end, such a shared life.
Common Marriage PACKAGE DETAILS
- Principal interviews
- Family interviews
- Associate/friend interviews
- Printed honor book
- Non-family honor book version
- Original illustrated children's book
- Commissioned art
- Family gifts
- Advice book
- Original music
- Honoring event / experience
- 6-18 month total engagement time
Please think of this as an abbreviated list of variations from which we can build the engagement.
They chose to sit in on each other's interviews. Maybe more remarkably, they chose to allow the other to be there, and to hear the whole story of the other's life at once, fresh, in response to someone else's questions. It took three weekends at the beach. Afternoons in a sun-drenched living room, and evenings out together for dinners the each worked hard to savor. And then there was another weekend where they were interviewed as a couple, weaving their stories together and filling in gaps they knew the kids would want to know about. They wrote blessings for each child and grandchild together. She led the effort, with a loving abandon that knew there was nothing to gain from holding back. They'd always known how much power there was in a "unified front," and in loving their family together, but they'd never seen it as potently as they did in writing the blessings.
She died on a Friday night in May. All three sons were there, in the den they'd set up for hospice care. Her husband, after a lifetime of abandonment fears, distancing, and reserve, was in the bed beside her with his forehead touching hers, pulling himself as close to her as he could, even as she slipped away. That's the thing the middle son says allowed him to put down the anger he'd been carrying so long.
Today, the sons and their wives read the grandchildren a book written about Grandma and Grandpa. It's about holding on and letting go. When they read it at his house, Grandpa watches quietly and cries. Sometimes he reads it to them and cries, too, and the grandchildren tell him everything will be okay. Recently, his seven year-old granddaughter said she wanted to have a marriage like the one Grandma and Grandpa had, and that she wanted to be the best in the world at holding on and letting go.
The family all received "hug blankets" when she passed, intended to be used when they feel sad or alone and need someone to hold them.
There's also a bench at the beach with the couple's names on it, near their vacation home. When he's there, he takes his morning walk and visits it sometimes. He says the words inscribed across the top board of the bench always sound like her voice in his mind. "Let me hold you until you're ready to go."