This past December, Twentieth Century Fox released a remake of the sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still. While the original movie is one of my all time favorite films, the first news I received of the remake caught my attention for other reasons: it was to be released on December 12th, a rather significant date in my own life. It would be ten years ago on December 12, 2008 that Renata became my bride. In the months leading up to the movie's release, Renata and I would joke amongst ourselves each time we saw the movie's poster (which featured the release date quite prominently) that maybe, just maybe, someone in Hollywood had made a movie about our wonderful wedding day.
While the earth certainly stood still for us on that day back in 1998, the love on which our relationship was founded did not. It has continued to propel our marriage forward through the highs and lows of life while yielding an enduring union that has steadily grown in depth of intimacy and in mutual appreciation for what we have been given in each other. For this reason, we've always looked forward in anticipation to our wedding anniversaries, seeing them as times for genuine celebration and thanksgiving. And given our shared, human affinity for round numbers, anniversary number ten was going to be quite the celebration.
Now love can do so much more than just move a marriage along. If cultivated, it will eat away at selfishness, fill the marital relationship with substance and seek an outlet to overflow into the lives of others. Thus, as our relationship has grown, so too has the size of our family. It should surprise no one then that Renata and I, with joyful expectancy, learned last September that our fourth child was on the way, due to make landfall in May. Even though number four would be joining us for our planned tenth anniversary festivities, Renata and I remained dead set on making the date an occasion to remember.
Despite our plans and intentions, the days approaching our anniversary unfolded unlike anything we would have envisioned. After a debilitating first trimester (a first for my wife), December 4th brought some startling and unwelcome news of potential trouble in the sixteenth week of the pregnancy. After several days of prayer and waiting with family and friends, December 8th brought for us the worst news of all: the child that my wife was carrying had no heartbeat. Never before had we experienced a miscarriage. Our disappointment was only amplified in having to relay the news to those around us, especially our children. Though deeply saddened by it all, we were thankful for the peace that we shared together. In the lead up to what was to have been a festive occasion in our relatively young lives, circumstances beyond our control now dictated that we would need to spend our tenth anniversary in the hospital.
I will remember a number of details about December 12, 2008.
- I'll remember how my wife lay beside me in bed after midnight and shared that she was afraid, having never been induced or medicated in labor. I'll also remember how she exuded nothing but serenity when she arose from her sleep.
- I'll remember the mixed emotions of being in a delivery room again, sitting in a place that my memories associated with the happiness and joy of greeting new lives, profoundly aware that the pending outcome would be different.
- I'll remember how Renata encouraged me to eat when she herself was not permitted and smiled affectionately with gratitude in her eyes when I conceded to do so.
- I'll remember a staff of nurses so genial and attentive that it was almost beyond belief and a medical doctor with purple highlights who in our minds was heaven sent.
- I'll remember wondering if the designers of the maternity room fold-out sleeping chairs have any tall friends. Any.
- I'll remember how natural my wife's hand felt in my own, the numerous times we just gazed into each others eyes and smiled in silence.
- I'll remember holding the lifeless, fragile body of my daughter Caressa in my right hand as the life that I wished for her filled with all the hopes and dreams of a father's heart for his child flashed before my eyes repeatedly. I'll also remember the realization that Caressa and I were the picture of how our Heavenly Father carries us, desires life for us and dreams dreams for us even as He did for Renata and I then.
- I'll remember leaving the hospital in deep thought, admiring the silent beauty of a steady snowfall in the cold, wee hours of the night as my heart refused to say goodbye to the child we were leaving behind, hoping that she somehow knew just how much we loved her.
All these details in vivid clarity I will remember and more. But what really stands out in my mind from our tenth anniversary is this: I was granted the opportunity to see that my wife's God-given attributes that have so enchanted me in all the years I have known her still shown brightly on one of the darkest days of our lives. Neither obscured nor enhanced by the trappings of our wedding day, her beauty continued to radiate from within, her godliness continued to be manifest in her actions, and her gentleness and caring remained evident even amidst the tears from her loss. The dark, dismal circumstances of our anniversary day served as a backdrop against which the woman whom I took as my wife ten years prior was more resplendent in her person than on any occasion I could remember. I cannot thank God enough for the years that he has placed her in my life and look forward to spending many, many more anniversaries with her.
Stan M. Mangrum is the happily married husband of the author of this blog.