It was rainy outside but the chapel was illuminated with the soft glow of candlelight. The groom held the bride’s hand steady as they stood before me. There was no bridal party. No groomsmen. No flower girl or ring bearer or organist or photographer. He wore his best suit. She wore a scarf she picked out for the day. It was just the two of them and me as prompter, as they made promises before God.
They leaned in slightly to make sure that they caught both the words and cadence that they were supposed to repeat. They knew that perfection really didn’t matter all that much but they still wanted to get the words right. Richer or poorer. Better or worse. Sickness and health. Til death parts us.
I prayed for them. They kissed. She giggled slightly.
It was their 65th wedding anniversary.
As we had prepared to enter the chapel, the bride had given me a quotation. I asked her if she wanted me to read it in the little ceremony that we had planned. She said no, but that she wanted me to read it ahead of time to know them a bit more. So, I did. It read:
Life does not consist in the dreams you dream but the choices you make.
Not exactly romantic, I thought. But telling. A couple that had begun life together in the shadow of World War 2 was now standing before me with little fanfare simply wanting to affirm before God and each other that knowing all that they knew, they would still choose each other again.
They left the church together hand in hand. Walking slowly. They had decided to have Chinese food for lunch because it was her favorite. Before they had started toward the car, she looked at her husband and then at me. “This is the finest man I know,” she said. He smiled sheepishly.
I thought of the two young kids who had made these same promises so many decades before and then glanced back at them one more time. Ultimately, you don’t make choices, I thought.
Choices make you.