Tuesday, August 09, 2005

For some context, a couple of posts ago I talked about my divorce, and there have been some really good comment threads there which are helping me think about the contracts we make with a partner.... Tonight I was reading an article in the NYT magazine called "Will We Ever Arrive at the Good Death?" and clicked onto a series of photographs titled "As They Died."

At first this will seem unrelated so bear with me. The article is worth reading and I felt covered the issues well, care for the process of dying is worth a years's worth of blog posts actually. But what I want to post about tonight is one of the photos.

Here is the caption: "Suzanne Richardson, a former dean of students at Harvard Law School, was given a diagnosis of advanced gastric cancer in February 2003. In April 2005, after several failed rounds of chemotherapy, she married Barry Donner, her partner of 10 years, in the chapel at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston." The photo shows them hugging, the look on each of their faces gives away the insurmountable obstacle they are looking into, and is full of tenderness for each other.

I wept looking at this picture and it became apparent to me that I am probably more loyal to the ritual, the institution of marriage than I let on to myself or others.

I tend to tell myself, based on my experience, that people change and the formal contract seems to bind things in place that cannot be rigid. And since I don't live inside a religious tradition, that incentive for making vows is absent. So if you asked me if I found the right person, if I would want to get married to them, I'd probably say no at first. Then it might shift into a "well, the party would be nice as a celebration, and I think rituals are a good thing to mark passages, and yet I don't know what I'd promise to someone these days." I don't mean to offend anyone with this but promising forever anything seems rash to me, probably since I did it once and it was a promise I felt I had to break. butuki comments to one of my posts below (and I heartily concur) "My feeling is that all people are free; no one has a claim on anyone else. Loving another and being loved is an expression of this freedom. If things change and one of the partners (or both) needs to move on, then letting that person go is part of the freedom of loving."

So then what does a marriage mean to me? I've been pretty much writing the idea off, much to my daughter's dismay, who feels her life is unfufilled without the chance to be in a wedding party.

But there were those tears, and they were tears that came from a place inside me that said "yes, I would want that too." And now I am wondering, maybe I was thinking way too practically about this thing.

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