Denise Day Spencer

July 8, 2010

We never said the words

Filed under: Personal reflections — denisedayspencer @ 11:32 am

Today would be our 32nd wedding anniversary…if we weren’t now permanently stuck at 31. So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you just a bit about our wedding.

We got married in 1978. Michael was fresh out of college; I still had one year to go. We thought it would be cool to buck tradition and write our own wedding vows. (Will anyone else out there admit to doing that?) I would tell you what they were if I could remember them. I do recall that the ring vows included words from the Song of Solomon —  “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,” and went on from there with some trendy stuff we made up. Michael’s poor minister uncle was as traditional as they come, but somehow he calmly endured our shenanigans and pronounced us man and wife anyway.

It didn’t take Michael long as a professional minister to develop a great respect for the traditional wedding vows and to be horrified at ours. He swore that when we hit 25 years we were going to have a renewal of vows and do it up right. (Instead we just took a nice trip.) When Noel and Clay each planned their wedding ceremonies, Michael insisted they use the tried and true. (I don’t think either of them had considered anything else.)

Through the years we joked about our oh-so-original wedding. If one of us had a bad cold and asked for something to drink the other would quip, “Hey, I never promised to love you in sickness!” When we were dismayed at our shoestring budget one of us might say with a wink, “Well, we never promised to love each other ‘for poorer’…” At least once Michael feigned worry and asked, “Do you think we’re even really married?”

I’ve thought a lot about our vows in the past seven months. Actually, I’ve thought about the words we did not say, especially that bit about “…in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part…” We had never faced any kind of  actual personal tragedy together until Michael was diagnosed with cancer. He had hardly been sick a day in his life, yet suddenly he was dying. In a way I felt I’d never known what love really was until I spent all day every day caring for him. Would he have done the same for me? Of course he would have. We had lived out the “right” vows in spite of our youthful commitment to coolness. When it mattered most, tradition held true.

“…’Til death do us part…” I’m still trying to deal with that one. I do know one thing — we never said the words, but we meant them.



  1. Denise, LOL! Some time, let’s sit down and Gail and I can tell you about our wedding! I thought we were the only “hippies” left who had 70’s wedding spectacular. We not only wrote our own vows, but crammed so much in that we actually had two preachers, plus my father, speak!

    Our family still kept us, somehow.

    Love you. You’re in our prayers today.

    Comment by chaplain mike — July 8, 2010 @ 12:55 pm | Reply

  2. Denise, I was really touched by your entry. And I’m grateful that my family was touched by the way you and Michael lived out your commitment to each other, to the Lord, and to the many people you’ve ministered to. You’re in my prayers on this special day.

    Comment by Steve Schaefer — July 8, 2010 @ 2:36 pm | Reply

  3. Denise,

    Your vows were made before God. That’s all that really counts as I’m sure our wonderful God has seen and heard it all! Those special vows are the deposits of memories you will have and hold from this day forward. That Michael has gone to his rewards doesn’t mean your anniversaries to come are over. You’re just celebrating them apart. Until the glorious day you are reunited, I wish you strength, comfort and wisdom. My thoughts and prayers are with you always. Happy Anniversary and Christ’s Peace my friend.


    Comment by Bonita — July 8, 2010 @ 3:57 pm | Reply

  4. Denise,

    Peace and blessings, yesterday must have been difficult in some aspects. Thank you for sharing this.

    Comment by Joh — July 9, 2010 @ 9:27 am | Reply

  5. A 31+ year testimony to your faithfulness and to the grace of God. Thank you for that encouragement in an age of toxic non-commitment. I appreciate your words as I have appreciated Michael’s. Keep writing. You have much to say.

    Comment by Kat — July 9, 2010 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

  6. Denise,

    We just celebrated our 26th year together. Just a few months before, I was diagnosed with Prostate cancer. Unlike Michael, I have a good chance of beating it, as a checkup for something else spotted it before (we think–you never really know) it spread. but I am undergoing months of treatments, including radiation, surgery, and hormone therapy.

    We too did our own vows, but somehow included the traditional as well. This year they have never been more pertinent as this disease does threaten health and wealth (even with insurance, the deductibles are going to be a strain). And death do you part hangs over us, even if my prognosis is excellent. Death is no longer a theory.

    And each day has become more precious. I no longer take anything for granted; especially the wonderful woman I married.

    My prayers are for you… The price tag of a good marriage is the pain it causes when it ends in death…

    Comment by caine — August 21, 2010 @ 8:34 am | Reply

  7. So Denise, a buddy of mine gives me this wonderful book a few weeks ago. I am reading along and the guy is telling me my story since the 90’s and 1996 the year I left seminary and went to finish my MSW like Joseph thrown down the well at LSU. And boom this internet Monk that he has been telling me about for the past several years and now the book by the guy is your husband! I was floored, and washed up in fragmented memories of you and BHE and some spirited conversations in 88, 89, 90 or so with Mike. Wow did I miss out. But now I am finishing the book and reading over the blog(s).

    My heart felt sympathy to you and the not so little ones!

    peace, Sonny Hatfield

    Comment by Sonny — August 29, 2010 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  8. We got married in 1978. Michael was fresh out of college; I still had one year to go. We thought it would be cool to buck tradition and write our own wedding vows. (Will anyone else out there admit to doing that?)

    Hey, Denise, that was The Seventies, tail end of The Sixties. There were a lot of weird fads getting started, and that was one of them.

    “What a long, strange trip it’s been…”
    — The Grateful Dead

    Comment by Headless Unicorn Guy — October 18, 2010 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

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