The weather was made to order; as if purchased from a postcard factory specializing in perfect-day clip art.
An unbroken clear blue sky stretched from horizon to horizon, white downy cotton clouds drifted lazily without hurry across the overhead vista, draping fleeting patches of cool shade upon the celebration and its attendees who came together to send off the newly married couple into their lives together.
As they stood face-to-face beneath the canopy, holding hands, the minister raised her head from the couple and looked toward the crowd;
“The couple has written their own vows which they’d like to share.”
He could hardly hear what she said; the sound of his heart pounding too loudly in his ears. When she finished, he, with shaking hands, pulled a thrice-folded sheet of paper from inside his charcoal-grey tuxedo pocket. Looking deep into the brown eyes of his beloved, desperately attempting to prevent his voice from cracking, he croaked out his pledge.
“Today, in front of friends, family, and God, I am marrying my soul mate. I know not what lies in our tomorrows. Yet, no matter that, I promise to you that I will love you deeply and without reservation in every manner in which I know. I shall love you for the remainder of my days and beyond. In all that time, I commit to honor you for the person you are and not try to change you, as there is no reason to do so. you are already of my spirit, interwoven through my essence, closer to me than my breath. I ask nothing of you in return except to be with me. And I promise as each day fades into yesterday, before I sleep, that I will gently kiss you good night and thank the Universe for your presence. When we agree, I shall kiss you with gladness. Should we differ, I shall do the same. In sickness, my kiss will heal. In good times, it shall celebrate. I will – through joy and sorrow, illness and health, poverty and riches – forever remain by your side, ending and beginning each day with you and with a kiss.”
A beam of sunlight reflected from the gold ring as he placed it on her finger.
Faintly, he heard applause and cheering, noting the soap bubbles as they floated to the heavens over the two of them as they walked back up the aisle, drifting in their thoughts as the clouds and bubbles above.
Together they knitted their story through the fabric of time. Their wedding wandered into memories; replaced with the day-to-day tasks of a life as one. He built his career; she pursued her art. Jointly, they faced the days, two as one; each self-sufficient while strengthened – not divided – by interdependence.
Every night, he held true to his commitment, placing his lips against her, even if she was already asleep, as he climbed into bed.
The passing of the calendar brought with it the “usual” ups and downs; career changes, mortgages, vacations, children, soccer games, birthday parties, the loss of parents – and ever more frequently – friends. Despite it all – or because of it all – each and every night, he held true to his north star as he slid on to the mattress, pulling with care the blankets up over the two of them.
His hair was thinner now; hers grayer.
They moved a little more slowly, visited the doctor a little more often, settled down in the living room a little more early. Smooth younger skin had been replaced with the signs of aging. Wrinkles fanned out from the corners of their mouths with crow’s feet adorning their eyes. Yet, even now, decades later, the spark he saw when he looked at her on that warm summer day had not faded. Their thirties were long-ago memories, kept alive in photo albums, but the sturdiness and energy of youth had been replaced with the strength, togetherness, and softness of untold days together. He was more in love with her now than he ever could have imagined.
She lay on her side facing the opposite side of the bed, a slight slumbering sound as she breathed. After watching her for moment as he did most nights, he pulled back the quilt and slid under its warm embrace, leaning over, he – as he had done thousands of nights before and for many more to come – kissed her gently as she slept.