There's a small place tucked away inside of me that pretty much stays sad about the ways people hurt each other, all the predictable and unnecessary ways they hurt the ones they love. I just kind of know that place is there (I used to didn't know) and I tend to it from time to time with comfort and kindness. Today was one of those days . . . a little melancholy, a mix of sadness and hope for the couples I love, a tiny prayer for the heartbreaking fragility of their marriages.
When I was a teenager, my boyfriend and I found a tiny gray kitten and brought it home to my house. We put towels in a box and laid the kitten in it and the kitten was so tiny in the box so we found a smaller box and laid the kitten in it instead. For a whole afternoon and evening, we took turns holding the kitten. I don't think it was a newborn because it was furry and its eyes were open but it was small enough to lay curled in the palm of my hand, with its chest heaving and its eyes half-closed. We tried to feed it but it didn't even have the strength to lick the milk that beaded on its upper lip. My boyfriend was a good guy and I think he knew what was coming because he took the kitten home with him that night and then came back the next morning to tell me it had died.
Working with couples in crisis makes me feel the same way that I felt that day with the kitten--holding something so fragile, so tiny, so full of hope and yet in so much pain. As we work together, I can feel myself rooting for them, celebrating the wins, reassuring them through the losses . . . and the vast majority of them weather the storm and dig really deep and manage to somehow make it work. But some don't . . . and even the ones who do bear the scars.
When a marriage dies, I'm reminded of my time as a healthcare chaplain, visiting the dying and sitting with their families by the bedside waiting for the inevitable. When a marriage recovers, though, the joy is deep and quiet and often comes with as many tears. I'm genuinely amazed by the resilience and the courage that so many couples have and I'm grateful for the opportunities I have to work with them--whether the marriage survives or not. I talked with C briefly today and mentioned that I was feeling melancholy about this and he said, "I'm so sorry, sweetheart; you didn't ask for this." And then we both laughed as we realized that I absolutely did ask for this and that I wouldn't trade it for anything. But some days I need to tend the place where the sadness is and today was one of those days.