Monday, December 6, 2010

"Till Death Do Us Part"

I’ve thought about the above words a lot since Ron lifted them from our wedding vows and scrawled them, at a dramatic pitch, at the end of his suicide note. That act alone is an attention-getter, but in addition, his suicide note comprised the largest outpouring of feeling I’d ever received from him.

Then he disappeared from this world with a single shotgun blast, spattering the words with drops of his blood.

I still have the note. I do not have him to discuss this with. So I chase his spirit in my writing—Turn around! Talk to me! Hear me!—hoping to milk what meaning I can from his choices and actions.

With his postscript Ron was referring to the fact that despite vowing to love him until death, I had, some eight weeks earlier, begun divorce proceedings. Alcoholism had obliterated what sense of fiscal responsibility he’d had, and since he wouldn’t seek help for he drinking or our marriage or the spending, I needed to protect our children and me from any further harm in this regard.

He chose to pre-empt the divorce on his own terms—he’d wanted to live on the farm together as a family until he died. He did so.

Three years later, I was ready to make that same vow again.

A fundamentalist Christian friend voiced a strong opinion about this: Dave and I were not free to marry. You gotta love a woman who speaks her mind, you know?

According to her beliefs, I was free to marry Dave because my husband had died. Dave was not free to marry me, however, because he had divorced.

I couldn’t play that game. I knew in my heart my marriage to Ron was over and could see, in retrospect, that the difference between divorce or death in my case was only a matter of timing.

It never ceases to amaze me, since we all worship the same Creator, how differently we believers choose to draw boundaries between right and wrong. Luckily, not all Christians are as rigid as my friend. Dave and I found a pastor who believes, as we did, that God will forgive choices that result in no-win situations because God loves us, expects us to grow, and challenges us to bring good things into the world.

So I imagine Ron might be as surprised as my conservative friend to hear that I believe, as Ron did, that what God joined together, I did not have the power to put asunder. I see that as a separate issue from enacting my legal right to extricate myself, to the extent possible, from the consequences of his choices. But I remember the soul connection with the man that I loved, and even beyond his death, Ron will be with me for the rest of my life.

So I was never “free” to marry Dave. Yet I chose him.

And I guess he wanted me, ghosts and all.

More on that, in Dave's and my words, in the next post. What do you think—are we ever truly freed from our choices?


Charli Mac said...

Interesting question...Are we ever freed from our choices.

Depends. Some choices are freeing, about letting go and moving on. Some about holding onto, making changes.

I try not to define freedom. Am I free to do as I wish? Yes, free will as a human being grants me that. But there are so many things I'd never do, or couldn't see myself being able to do. Homicide, abusing my child, ramming my car into a wall, running down the street naked, becoming a swinger with my husband. I am free to do all of these things but don't think I will be anytime soon.

I try not to put my life into a neat little box. It sure as heck doesn't fit. I have made choices in my life, some good and others, well, not so much.

Am I free from all of them? No. My life is what it is now because of them. However, they do not haunt me, or fill me with regret. They use to but what's the point? You can't change it or take it back. You can only move forward and hope to do the best you can with what you've got.

BTW, I am an on and off again Roman Catholic. I am more spiritual than religious. I do not believe any of us are wrong or right. I do believe in a higher power but believe it's above my pay grade to define it, let alone define it for another person.

I was raised Catholic, as others are raised Hindu, Agnostic, even Atheist. It is not my right to judge them. If you're a good person, not harming others, then I think I 'll see people after this life, wherever it is we go.

Your friend who said you were not "free" to marry...WWJD or say? The freedom that gave her the right to say such a thing is the same freedom that gave you the right to marry a man that you love.

Just my two cents...

Kathryn Craft said...

Charli: Yes, I agree, we are the result of our choices. I think I'd probably add to that "...and what we chose to do about them and process that." I use my writing to work through this stuff so that it has no dominion over me, you know? But others make different choices.

I guess I'd also have to say that we must choose to act within our ethical/moral system--our personal sense of right and wrong--or we pay a horrible toll. I think that was part of Ron's problem.

I love your phrase "it's above my pay grade to define it"! That's why I have trouble using a personal pronoun to stand in for the concept of God. We little humans can't possibly contain God within our language.

And as to my fundamentalist friend--don't give up on her yet. More about that in the next post!

Righter04 said...

really appreciate this blog entry. there is no freedom without responsibility. but there is forgiveness. when we forgive, we let go. and in a way we are no longer responsible for others' bad choices. sounds like psychobabble. but it's the healing that is freeing.

now whether that means counseling, separation, divorce--the couples must let go, otherwise they aren't holding on to a marriage they are holding on to hurt.

what you went through was like double grief--the death of your marriage and the death of your husband. so you had to let go, or else how could possibly fall in love?

remarriage to a divorced man it's not surprising to me. i think sometimes it's almost like you go through a battle and the only people who appreciate your strength and resilience are those who have been through the same battle.

regarding the Fundamentalist's view, what about annulments? they are necessary to allow a spouse to leave a situation that is not a marriage in any sense of the word. and what about those couples that stay together and have nothing but a shell of a relationship--are they better than those who remarry?

Margaret said...

I do believe we own our choices and by acknowledging that, we are freed. I am Catholic and do not believe that we are "bound" by those vows when other promises made are broken. Our oldest daughter went through an annulment process to remarry. While some might say that amounts to waffling, she found great solace in actually writing down why her marriage didn't meet the promises of the wedding vows. And therefore,the marriage was invalid. Don't know if I've been any help, but your blog entry speaks to me.


Kathryn Craft said...

Righter04 (Does that make you "righter" than me? haha): I love your phrase "the only people who appreciate your strength and resilience are those who have been through the same battle." Interestingly enough Dave and I had both been to therapy to discover how to put our needs/wants/desires out there in the world, so we are very respectful of each other in this regard.

And I agree: why would God want us to languish in an unworkable marriage? Especially in the case of addiction--there was nothing I could do for Ron. He had to take the next steps on his own, and couldn't. It was quite sad.

Kathryn Craft said...

Margaret: Thanks for your comment. I did writing similar to your daughter's when I started therapy. I was to write down what makes me the person I am. I was shocked at all that came out of me--22 traits that absolutely define who I am. Then I went back through and realized that Ron failed to support, ignored, or actively abused 15 of them.

So Dave and I added into our vows: "Will you promise to support her as she seeks God's will in her life; will you nurture her spiritual, emotional, and mental growth through times of clarity and confusion, tragedy and joy, sickness and health, as you journey through life together?" We figured that about covered it.