After 9/11, we heard from widows and widowers who described nothing but saintly spouses and story-book marriages. I wondered how this could be. How could none of these people have had an unhappy or mediocre marriage? Wouldn’t the marriages of the 9/11 victims fall along a bell curve, with some very happy marriages, some quite miserable, and most in between? So I decided that in their grief and loss, they were focused on the good times and simply ignoring the bad.
But eventually I realized that they may have been ignoring things, but that didn’t make them ignorant, it made them wise.
It wasn’t that their marriages were happier than most, it wasn’t that they were lying to themselves or to us. They were telling the truth, not just about their marriages, but about ours.
I think 9/11 caused the widows and widowers to revert back to the emotions they had when they first fell in love. We don’t deny that those first feelings are real or true. They fade, but why can’t they be recaptured? Why isn’t our idealized early view of our husband or wife as valid as the later jaded one? I think 9/11 brought back those early emotions and served as a bookend to their first days of falling in love.
One of the lessons of 9/11 is about love. We can appreciate in our spouses what the widows and widowers did without going through their tragedy. We can learn to understand what really matters before it’s too late. We should idealize those we love, not just when we take our vows, but till death do us part.