“I, Rachel, take you, Chris, to be my lawfully wedded husband. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part. This is my solemn vow.”
I, Rachel, take you, Chris. People say you can’t help who you fall in love with. I don’t agree. You can’t help who you’re attracted to, but you make a choice to invest in a relationship which eventually leads to love. That being said, I didn’t go looking for Chris. I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, and even though I thought he was gorgeous, I had sworn off any and all relationships. But he swept me off my feet. I couldn’t tell you whether it was his cheeky smile, the way my head fit so perfectly on his shoulder, the way he made me feel fiercely protected or his little idiosyncrasies, like the way he had to have the volume in the car on an even number or it would drive him nuts. It was despite the fact that he was a morning person and I was a night owl, despite him being one of the most impatient people I had ever met and me being perfectly content to sit in traffic or line up at the supermarket, despite the fact that he was a creature of habit and I was probably far too relaxed about most things. Because of and in spite of all of those things there was no going back. He would never have admitted it, but he was a softie and a closet romantic and before I knew I was head over heels.
To be my lawfully wedded husband. When we first started seeing each other I had made it very clear that I never wanted to get married again. He said he didn’t care and, at the time it made me love him even more because it spoke volumes about his character. Considering patience was never his strong suit, he never put any pressure on me and considering the fact that if nagging was an Olympic sport Chris would have won the Gold medal every time he was never the one to bring it up in conversation. I did hear, much later down the track, that the very first night we met, he told his mate that he was going to marry me, and imagine my surprise when I realised that somehow or another he had slowly changed my mind. It certainly wasn’t the most romantic of proposals, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he loved me and without hesitation, I said yes. He did pick my engagement ring (albeit with a little bit of help from his mum) and I loved it. On the 18th November 2006, I married my best friend and partner for life. The date had no sentimental reason, we actually just chose it because it was one of the only dates the guy we wanted to do our music was free for. It was a great day and the cherry on top was Chris serenading me with “Angels” by Robbie Williams, changing the lyrics from “I’m loving angels instead” to “I’m loving Rachie instead”.
To have and to hold from this day forward. I am a naturally affectionate person, I like public displays of affection (within reason of course). For all of his tough guy image, Chris was really a big softie and was just as affectionate as I was. No matter where we were he would reach for my hand or drape his arm across my shoulder. As sappy as it sounds I always felt 100% protected and safe in his arms. There were times when, being the emotional, heart on my sleeve person that I am, I would be sobbing and those same arms would say so much without saying anything at all. Annoyingly, those same “safe” arms would grab me and cuddle me so I couldn’t escape when he had done something to tick me off, knowing that I could never stay angry at him for long. On the rare occasion when that didn’t work he would use a quote from a movie which was a great Plam B. The one he quoted the most was from one of his favourite movies, “Once Were Warriors” and with his cheeky grin he would say “you love me” to which I would quote back (with a touch of poetic licence) “that’s the problem Chris, I do”. On the rare occasions when Chris was as upset about something as I was, I hope that he felt the same comfort I felt when he held me.
For better, for worse. There is no doubt that we had lots of “for better” times, in fact, I would go as far as to say the “for better” times were as numerous as the stars in the sky. There were a few major things, the birth of our beautiful daughter Georgia and our wedding just to name a few. There were also the hundreds of seemingly simple times which made up our “for better”. The times when we would laugh till we cried over something silly one or other of us had done. The times when I would laugh watching him laughing at one of his stupid redneck shows like Swamp Rats or Jackass. The camping holidays we took together, even the home projects that we started but got in way over our heads and had to pay someone to come and fix. The date nights which included the night my big spender bought us $2 hot dogs from Costco. It was all the times we sat around the dinner table together for tea, the birthday celebrations, the BBQs we had with friends.
Of course, life would not be life if we didn’t have our share of “for worse” as well. There is no doubt that the worst of “for worse” was Chris’ mum’s illness and death. I have never met anyone who loved and protected her family as fiercely as mum did. She was the glue that pulled everyone together and to say we were devastated when Mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour would be a huge understatement. There were days when “for worse” meant forgiving the hurtful things we said to each other or the clashes we had over differing opinions about things but all of those paled in comparison to the day we lost mum, followed quickly by the day of her funeral. There was also the time when a plumbing company that Chris was working for called him in with no notice and told him they were laying him off due to no work. My hard-working, first there and last to leave, always willing to put his hand up to help when needed husband was gutted when he got the news. It was a pathetic move on their part and if it sounds like I still harbour a grudge against them, I do! Such was the work ethic of my amazing man, he quickly found work doing odd jobs until our “for worse” turned into a “for better” when he landed a job at Geocon, a job he loved. At the end of the day, the “for better” days far outweighed the “for worse” days and that is something to be very grateful for.
For richer, for poorer. Chris and I had two totally different views about money. I was the one who looked after the finances in our relationship because Chris, by his own admission, was hopeless and would have had our bank account cleaned out in two seconds given the chance. Having said that, one of his favourite catch-phrases was “just another excuse to take a man’s money”. It was more bluff than anything else because if any one of his friends needed help Chris would always do what he could to help. There were definitely times when things were really tight, and we were living payday to payday but Chris had an amazing work ethic and he always prided himself on providing for his family and I loved him for it.
There were always two things that he NEVER complained about spending money on, anything to do with fishing and upgrades to the camper. We would good-naturedly argue about the camper trailer because of the way he talked me into it in the first place. It didn’t take much persuading really because we both loved camping. We had always talked about travelling up through the centre of Australia and around Tasmania and this camper was the perfect fit for us. We had to finance it though and I was more cautious about it than Chris was. So Chris struck a deal with me. He would sacrifice the money he spent on smoko each week and that would be enough to cover the weekly repayments for the camper. I had a healthy scepticism about this deal, but the excitement about the advantages of the new camper drowned out any doubts I had about Chris’ commitment to sacrificing coffee money. It will probably come as no surprise that the deal was broken in less than a month! With the cheeky grin that he knew I was a sucker for, the familiar catch-phrases I knew so well became a part of our weekly routine. “Can I have coffee monies, Friday buy day, Saturday big breakfast” I heard them all, and when I would remind him about our deal he would just kiss me on the cheek and not say a word knowing the money he wanted would be waiting by his keys ready for work the next day. We never had millions in the bank but our life together was rich in ways money could never buy and I was grateful for everything we did have.
In sickness and in health. Chris found out he was a type two diabetic by accident really. His mum had type two diabetes too and one morning we checked Chris’ blood sugar level at the same time. It was one of the highest readings I had ever seen and I couldn’t believe that Chris had been walking around with such a high reading, practically symptom-free. As a typical male, it still took some considerable nagging to get Chris to the doctor but it was just as well we did because he had high blood pressure which needed looking after as well. Ironically, the man who had pestered his mum when she had a fifty cent soft serve cone from Maccas, all of a sudden became the most non-compliant diabetic I had ever known. I’m certain Chris thought he had lucked out having a wife who was also a nurse and I tried my best to keep him on the straight and narrow. It wasn’t until some new work boots caused a pesky blister which led to a massive infection that I realised how uncompliant he had been.
After weeks of having the blister on his toe cleaned and dressed daily a very on the ball doctor took one look at Chris’ toe and sent him straight to the Canberra Hospital for a specialist consult. Even then I don’t think we knew how serious it was but in the long run, it was the huge wake-up call Chris needed. The Vascular Surgeon who saw Chris told him he would have to amputate his big toe but told him he was lucky they caught it when they did because if they had left it any longer he could have lost half his foot. It was at this time that Chris admitted he wasn’t taking his medication regularly. The sheepish look he shot me while making this confession told me he knew he’d been sprung and that he knew I’d be riding his butt from then on. If he was nervous about going into surgery he didn’t show it, cracking jokes with the nurses right up until they wheeled him into theatre. My ten foot tall and bulletproof husband was not going to let something like a toe amputation slow him down and after two weeks at home on the couch, he was chomping at the bit to get back to work. When he was fully back on his feet (pun intended), for the most part he really did look after himself. He lost a stack of weight and looked better than ever.
Apart from this major event, for the most part, we had more health than sickness, until the day that took Chris from us. The thing I don’t think I will ever get over, or stop being angry about is the fact that Chris’ death could have and should have been preventable. The coroner’s report, which arrived about eight months after Chris died showed that he had had a minor heart attack two or so weeks before. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself that Chris probably didn’t even know he had had a heart attack or that if he did, the outcome would have been different. It doesn’t matter that I KNOW that playing the “what if” game will do more harm than good. I will always wish that our “in sickness” had not been so devastating and life-changing.
To love and to cherish until death do us part. This is my solemn vow. I know some people have a tendency to put people who have died on a pedestal. It’s almost like people take the whole “don’t speak ill of the dead” to the extreme and the loved one they have lost all of a sudden become saints. I am fully aware of Chris’ faults, which, like me are too numerous to list here. Despite or in spite of each other’s faults we loved each other. I used to tell him the song “True Love” by Pink could have been our theme song. He frustrated the hell out of me at times (and no doubt I bugged the heck out of him too). He had a number of idiosyncrasies that drove me nuts but he was my best friend, my protector, my cheer squad, he would even give me a kick up the backside when I needed it. He made me laugh and even though I would never have admitted it to him when he said it, he really was the funniest man I knew. I did love and cherish him. Even on the days when we were frustrated with each other, I still adored him. Here’s the thing about those vows we took on 18th November all those years ago, it didn’t all of a sudden stop when “death us do part”. I will always love Chris, I will always cherish him. Very well-meaning people have said that I am young enough and will find someone when the time is right but that’s an impossibility because Chris has my heart with him. The inscription on his wedding ring, which I now wear says “always and forever”. It’s the way I end all of my blog posts. It’s just the way it is, because even though “death do us part” I will love and miss Chris forever, this is my solemn vow.
Always and forever.