‘Till Death Do You Part

Last week, an elderly couple of my acquaintance died within hours of each other, after 60 years of marriage, which got me thinking about the phrase “’till death do us part”

No matter how non-traditional the ceremony,  it’s surprising how often the vows end up including some version of the words “for as long as you both shall live”.  It’s a high ideal, and a huge committment – after all, no-one can see into the future, and who knows what form the years of  “for better or worse, for richer or poorer” will take. And yet, those words are carefully and deliberately still being included in 99% of the ceremonies I attend.

When I give couples the first draft of their ceremony, I’ll often include some totally nonsense vows in the space where they will ultimately insert their own vows, and even when I’m at my most irreverent, the concept pops up [usually in the vulgar form, as in  “…until one of us is dead :p “].

I wonder if it’s not so much “I’ll love you until I die” as “I can’t imagine not having you in my life”.

I recently overheard an elderly couple arguing good-naturedly about it – she was insisting that she should die first, so she wouldn’t be left alone. He was trying to convince her that was a terrible idea, because he always burned the dinner, so without her, he’d die of starvation. Her response? “Perfect, then we won’t be apart for long!”

Would that all marriages could be so long, so happy, and so united.  Of course, it’s never that easy – life gets in the way of our best intentions. It’s so rare for a couple to live and die in such close tandem that Syd and Marion’s deaths made the front page of the newspaper.

Whether it’s a spouse, or a parent, or a child, whether you promised to or not, you love them until death parts you, and beyond. It’s less  a case of “for as long as we both shall live”  and more like  “for as long as I live, I will keep on loving you”

Perhaps that’s why one of my favourite pieces of symbolism is an informal sand ceremony, where the couple stoop down and pick up a handful of ordinary sand from the beach where they are standing, walk to the water’s edge and together pour the sand into the waves. There’s a real sense of surrender about it, an awareness that the future is huge and uncertain, but choosing to take the risk of loving each other anyway.

It’s a tired old cliché, but still true that love doesn’t make the world go around, it’s what makes the journey worthwhile. So travel with your whole heart!














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