Almost three years after my first meeting with Dali, I walked down the aisle and, in the sight of God, my family and friends, I gave Dali my solemn vow, my “I do”, for better or for worse.
In the year leading up to our wedding we had seen each other briefly at Christmas, (my first Slovak Christmas and the first Christmas I had ever spent away from home-cabbage soup, fish and poppy-seed covered bread balls seemed like a poor replacement for roast turkey with all the trimmings, but that is another story). Since Christmas our only contact had been letters and an occasional expensive long distance phone call. It was the days before email, Skype and text messages, before communication became easier and, in a sense, less valuable, and each letter I received was precious and read and re-read till I knew its contents almost by heart.The last seven months before our wedding were a strange and solitary time for me. At times it felt like Dali was a fiction I had conjured up in my head. Going to the jewelers alone to pick out two wedding rings exposed me to some curious looks from the jeweler. Did I even have a man for the ring I was ordering? For seven months I made decisions, arranged a special marriage license, chose a dress, a venue and a menu, ordered flowers and did all the other necessary things one does to prepare for a wedding. Seven days before the wedding, dream became reality again when Dali set foot once more on English soil, just in time to buy a suit, attend a wedding rehearsal and welcome some wedding guests from overseas. They were seven days packed with emotion, anticipation and tension. What a relief when our wedding day finally arrived! As the church was in the centre of town and there was quite a traffic jam on that particular Saturday, I arrived fashionably late (but blissfully ignorant of the fact). It was a joyous day, the culmination of long months of waiting, hoping and dreaming.
But there was an underlying sadness too. I knew I was saying goodbye to so much and would be carrying the grief of that with me into my new life.
Wedding days are mostly so anticipated, each detail so carefully planned and worked out but in the end they fly away so quickly, like a flash of light, a vision that is gone too soon, before we can really take in the beauty and the glory of what we are seeing. Our day and our honeymoon were over so quickly and before we knew it we were setting out on our journey to our new home. We had spent two lovely weeks in Wales, the second of which was at the seaside, staying in my Aunt and Uncle’s seaside holiday home but the end of our honeymoon was more bitter than sweet. Perhaps it was the thought of leaving behind such a beautiful spot and heading for land-locked Slovakia, or perhaps saying goodbye to my two Uncles and Aunts who came to see us off, or perhaps the thought of the painful goodbyes waiting for me at my parents’ home where we would be packing up before the long bus journey to Slovakia.Whatever it was as we drove away from my Aunts and Uncles I was suddenly engulfed by a grief that I had never known before. Poor Dali. His new wife was falling apart two short weeks after saying “I do”. The emotions were strong, even frightening and neither of us knew what to do with them. So we did what we knew how to do. We quarreled. Less than ten minutes into our journey we had said all that was to be said and then sat for the rest of the journey in tense silence – Dali confused as to how he could help and I hurt that he had not understood my pain. It was the beginnings of the grieving process that I would go through as I said goodbye not only to my childhood home, but to everything I had ever known. I didn’t know yet that there would be many more days of grief ahead of me. And comfort would come slowly.
The next days brought final meetings with friends and family, choosing what to pack of our wedding gifts and what to leave behind until some later date, so many goodbyes and at last a departure for our new lives together.But for me “leaving and cleaving” felt as drastic as a major amputation.
Over the next months I began the process of adjusting to the major changes which I had said “yes” too, which I had anticipated with such excitement. I had got married, become a pastor’s wife, left job, family, home and country in one fell swoop and it was a lot to take in. But there was so much to be thankful for too during this time. I felt warmly welcomed and loved by the church Dali was pastoring. I was happy to wake up each day next to the love of my life and to anticipate the future with him. I was excited to be learning a new language and culture. I was thankful for the new friends God was giving and for the love He was giving me for Slovakia.
Yet every day brought me countless reminders that I had left my culture and my context behind. I began to wake up to the new reality that it would take time for me to rebuild a fraction of what I had left behind, and to grieve the fact that life would never be quite the same again, that some of my childhood dreams would now probably never come to pass. I knew I was in the right place and I couldn’t imagine life without Dali but marital bliss had come at a steep price for me and I would be paying it for a long time. For now I had to learn to trust God and take one day at a time, trusting that God would turn the grieving of those days into treasures of darkness beyond measure and beyond price.