It’s February 1. A day, which for the great majority of people, unless it’s their birthday or anniversary, is just another day on the calendar. And until 2017, that was the case for me, too. I can’t tell you about a single other February 1 in all my years except that one, extraordinary day.
I’ve been blessed in my life to have multiple moments of absolutely evident divine grace. Moments where the heavens crossed that abstract threshold that divides the living from the hereafter: the angel who visited me the morning my son was born and the direct inspired articulation of my next and, I believe, most important life’s work, Personal Systems Disruption.
No angel appeared to me, no inspired voice spoke inside my head on February 1, 2017. Instead, the Universe created a messy, bloody scene in our bathroom, dramatic in its gore but utterly unremarkable in its generation. Dr Marry had had a nosebleed so intense that after more than 12 hours, he woke me up to finally take him to the emergency room.
Even with all that, February 1, 2017, wouldn’t be all that memorable had we just gone home, bone tired, as the sun was coming up over the low, flat horizon. Dr Marry could have had his nose cauterized to stop the bleeding, like he did that night, and they could have sent us home. We could have somehow managed to muddle our way through the work day until we fell into bed, exhausted by the disrupted previous night’s sleep.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, I drove home alone, bone tired as the sun was coming up over the low, flat horizon. I had to let Lilly out, and Mazz wanted me to pick up a few things because he had been admitted to the hospital for further assessment.
I have often wondered what that ER doctor and nurses really knew that night that they didn’t share with us. They could tell something was wrong with his liver, and yet they never pursued questions about his alcohol consumption. Or if they did, he told them his standard answer: “I have one whiskey at night.”
Does anyone else live under the childlike assumption that divine grace is always gentle, warm and positive? From a Christian perspective, it makes little sense that we think that. Consider Mary’s encounter with Gabriel. The Bible tells this story as if it’s a kindly uncle telling his niece that a lovely present is coming. Now really think through that story. If it’s true, if she was just made pregnant by the holy spirit, that’s alarming, to say the least. If it’s a cover up, then that poor girl was almost surely raped by a Roman soldier, a member of her village or Gabriel himself.
What about Saul on the road to Damascus? He’s thrown off his animal, made blind and reprimanded by a great big voice from the sky.
Moses is met by a riotous orgy when he descends the mountain with the 10 Commandments. He destroys the tablets in his fury and is denied access to the promised land, his goal for almost his entire adult life.
Divine grace is actually rarely that still, small voice we are led to believe it will be. And it’s often not the end of the story but the beginning. It’s that transitional moment that disrupts the journey we are on and puts us on an entirely different path, but not always a smoother one.
It was really no different for me. I realized within the first month of our marriage that Mazz drank more than he claimed he did. You see, for nearly six and a half years, we had dated but never lived together. Mazz came over after work every day, ate supper with us and stayed to play LEGO, read Harry Potter, watch movies, etc. We spent both days of the weekend together as a little family of three. But late at night, when I got tired, I’d send Dr Marry home to sleep in his own bed. In all those years, he rarely spent the night at our house.
So I believed him when he told me he had one whiskey a night. I had no reason not to. Until June 2008, our first month married. He hardly got out of his pajamas that month. He moped around the house, watching incredible amounts of television. He missed the window to add Quinn and me to his work insurance, so we had to pay for an additional year of private insurance. Not every night, but often, one whiskey was two. And that was while I was awake. He almost never came to bed when I did.
I wondered what was happening; I was confused by this behavior. He was depressed, but I reluctantly passed it off because his dad’s birth and death days are in June. That month had often been tough for him, even in our dating years.
By the time 2017 rolled around, the rails were completely off the track where Mazz and our marriage was concerned. And yet, something kept me from realizing what was real. When I say I had no idea he was an alcoholic, I truly mean that. It’s as if a thick, hazy fog was placed over my eyes and my understanding to keep me from being able to see and comprehend clearly.
Maybe it was simply denial, but I don’t think so. I think I was kept from understanding our reality for reasons I still can’t quite articulate. I do have certainty about a few things:
- Had Mazz died from that nosebleed, like he very nearly did, I would have become an even more bitter, angry person because that’s the path I was most definitely on by the time we hit February 1, 2017. His death would have confirmed for me that marriage is ridiculous and that I should never have entered into such an antiquated and stifling contract in the first place.
- It would have confirmed that I was “right” about him. That even though I had no idea he was an alcoholic, I knew he drank too much, and I would have been vindicated. That would have fueled my bitter anger because that’s not the kind of vindication that erases the trauma or pain of the lived experience.
- I would have never known that absolute joy and certainty that can come of having an invested, equal and present partner to move through live with.
- Quinn would never have witnessed a true partnership, a model that is so important for children to experience before they enter into their own adult relationships.
- I would never have critically explored my own pieces of this journey to that night. I wasn’t the one drinking the whiskey but that doesn’t exonerate me from having played a significant role in the years leading up to February 1. Without a reason to examine myself, I would not be where I am today. That would be a shame because I have a far better understanding of what it means to be a fully complex human being, and I am a far more empathetic person because of having lived through something so difficult.
- I would have missed out on these glorious last four years: the adventures, the ups and downs, the laughter, the repaired relationships, the fear of failure and joy of success and so much more.
- I would never have understood the immense pride I have in saying I am partnered to Dr Andrew Mazz Marry and seeing a student’s eyes light up.
- I would never have allowed my heart to venture anywhere near the edge of loving or living again.
In many ways, I did become a widow that night. I did lose the husband I had had from May 31, 2008 to February 1, 2017. That man began a six-week journey of dying and being reborn simultaneously, Phoenix-like. And, actually, I did, too.
So this anniversary is remarkable because my husband began the journey of returning to me, and we began the journey of forgiveness, hope and healing together. But it’s also a powerful reminder that divine grace comes in all forms, and almost never as you think or hope it will.
Congratulations on four years of sobriety, Dr Marry. I bless this day because it celebrates turning a corner and disrupting our lives in the most glorious of ways. And I continue to be so, so grateful for the gift. I would go through it all over again to find myself right here, next to you.
Featured image: Dr Marry’s 49th birthday party, February 16, 2019.