By Blake Sittler
Marriage spiritually binds us to another person
When Brooke and I were first married, we lived in a small set of apartments on Clarence Avenue called the Dolphin. We loved our little one-bedroom home. It had a tiny little deck barely big enough for two
lawn chairs and when we sat at the kitchen table, I could open every cupboard door — not to mention the oven and fridge — from where I sat.
Like most young couples, we wanted to have a few months to get to know each other better as husband and wife but we were also excited to have a child.
On Father’s Day 1996, I got a card from Brooke which read, “Thank you for making me what I am today: A wife; a lover; a friend . . .” and on the inside it concluded, “. . . and a mother.”
I looked at the card for a second and thought, “This is weird. It’s phony Father’s Day, and she’s giving me a Mother’s Day card.”
That’s when the punch line hit me.
We laughed and cried and started calling everyone we knew and told them, “We’re pregnant! We’re parents! We’re having a baby!”
A few months later, Brooke was visiting her parents on the farm and I was working a shift at my job in the city when my boss came up to me and said, “You have a call from your wife. You may want to take it
in the back room.”
Brooke was crying on the other end of the phone. She told me that she was bleeding and that her mom was going to bring her into the city. We agreed to meet at my work.
When Brooke and her mom arrived, I ran up to the car and we hugged, “I think I’m having a miscarriage. We’re losing our baby,” Brooke sobbed.
Brooke’s mom, Bernie, came up to us and asked, “Do you want me to take you two to the hospital or do you want to go alone?”
Without looking up, Brooke replied, “I don’t know, Mom. I can’t think right now. Blake, what do you think?”
I have looked back on that day and that moment possibly hundreds of times. Bernie’s question was simple enough to be the lyrics to a Clash song: Should I stay or should I go now?
I desperately wanted Bernie to come with us. I knew the next few hours were going to be hard. My response surprised even me.
“I think we need to do this alone, Bernie. Just Brooke and me.”
* * *
In later years, Bernie shared with us that one of the most difficult moments in her life as a mother was letting go of us in that parking lot. As she watched me help Brooke, her daughter, into our car and
drive to the hospital, she felt that cord — or string, as of an apron — break. It was at that moment that she realized the primary person who was going to care for her daughter was now her husband.
At most every wedding we attend, we hear the lines from Genesis, “And that is why a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” This line from Genesis should haunt
us because it highlights how in marriage we are taking into our body another spirit. We leave our family to form another and yet our family stays with us.
Marriage transforms us into stewards of the unambiguous other. It spiritually binds us to another person so closely that we become one. The pain that one experiences is now shared by another. Just as the
bread of eucharist takes on God’s Holy Spirit and is transubstantiated into the real presence of Christ, so at a wedding are two people transformed — not physically but at the core of their existence by taking on the spirit of another.
The challenge to take into your care another person is not to be taken lightly. Marriage is not like a magic trick that becomes easier with practice. Marriage is more like chiselling a statue from marble:
large mistakes in the beginning can be corrected, but the longer you work at the art, the more painstaking your efforts must be. The effort we put into nurturing our marriage takes more effort over the years precisely because there are so many memories we
might take for granted.
* * *
Later that night, I called Bernie from the hospital to let her know we had lost our first baby. She listened as silently as a prayer as I sobbed into the phone. I will always appreciate how she was willing
to let us go and stay with us at the same time.
Sittler works for the diocese of Saskatoon in the office of Ministry Development and sits on the Diocesan Marriage Task Force. He and his wife, Brooke, have three children. He welcomes
feedback and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.