I was in line at the harbor for a whale watching tour. A large group of senior citizens was on a day tour and stepped behind me in line to wait. Two of the women chatted together about different kinds of things, and arrived at the conversation about their spouses.
One spoke of her husband who was on the tour with them, and the other kindly, profoundly, and honestly said..."I lost my Ed three years ago..."
She paused for a moment and let the silence convey a sorrow that has not diminished since the day she lost him.
"You know," she continued. "I miss him every day. I wish I could go back and let more of the little things go...those things didn't matter in the end."
I was struck to my bones by her statement.
I wish I would have let more of the little things go.
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our first year of marriage. Many people warned me that I would likely begin to experience incredible annoyance or frustration when we moved in together and began to live a life entirely and tightly woven together. I have not found that to be so...I have instead found marriage to be an unceasing and intentional practice of letting the little things go and focusing on the roots, the heart, the core of what matters every single day.
Marriage has been a very tangible reminder for me to live in the every day. Because the reality is - I could lose my spouse tomorrow. It has happened to many - the sudden loss of a spouse that shifts the tectonic plates of your life to unexplainable grief and ache and wonder at how to possibly move on. Some people get one year, some get ten, some get 50. I do not know how many I will get.
I wish I had let more of the little things go, she said.
I do not want to say this when my husband is gone. I do not want him to say this when I am gone. And I can make sure that doesn’t happen, by letting them go today.
There are hundreds of little things that you can choose to fight over in a marriage. There are piles of them and mountains of them as you walk side by side, hands clasped within one another, in marriage. And you can let them eat away at a marriage - anyone can. Any spouse can let them consume them and lead them to resentment, anger, or frustration. The piled up little things have as much power to break down a marriage as the big things do if they are given enough thought and energy.
But the little things are meaningless when I surrender to the reality that tomorrow is not promised to me - or to my spouse.
It is only when they are gone that we would realize, that we would know. It is only when a spouse, a family member, a friend goes to meet God that we are able to say with all sincerity…those things didn’t matter at all now that I have the eyes that death gives us to see.
When God separates my sweet husband and I in this earthly life and takes one of us home, I don't want to ever have the urge to utter "I wish." So I attempt to live every day with this truth in my heart - that the little things are nothing. We look at them together, we try to speak kindly through them, and we quickly move on. We do not let them control us or control the sacrament we are living. We give them no power. That takes a conscious, deliberate, challenging choosing. But on many days love - all love - is conscious, deliberate, and challenging.
I want to let go of the little things now - always and every day - in every moment, throughout the years.
We only have to choose.