My friend Helen is doing one of the most difficult things I can imagine: she's saying goodbye to Luke, her husband of 25 years. He has cancer. With her permission, I've posted below what she has to say about her marriage.
It's Luke and my 25th wedding anniversary on July 14th. Will he make it?
I should qualify that question: Will he make it in the flesh? I have no doubt that his spirit will be with me.
I have been thinking about marriage. It's like playing a Mozart piano sonata. You have the left hand busy with the Alberti bass, regular, rhythmic and steady, with occasional runs. The bass part is the root of the harmony, it creates the richness and depth to the melody.
The right hand carries the melody. It's the bit in the public face, the part that people whistle, the part that carries the overt feelings. It's the extrovert side.
If you have two left hand parts your marriage is dull and plodding. Two right hands and it is two people competing for the limelight, - all froth no milkshake.
So 25 years ago Luke and I started our sonata together. For the first two years it sounded good. Then we started jarring each other. Sometimes we were playing different bars at the same time. The right hand got ahead of the left, or the left got over loud and drowned out the right. Between there were enough good bars to make it worth while.
We've had times when we thought it would never come right, and we should stop playing. But when we got it right it was so good it was worth playing through to the end.
Now we are almost at the end of the sonata. We are closing with a graceful ritenuto. Winding down our marriage, speaking it through, going back and talking out the difficult bars. Apologising for drowning the other out, dragging or rushing ahead. For jarring chords and banging down the piano lid on the other's fingers...
It's the most satisfying thing I have ever done. Finishing off beautifully something it has taken 25 years to create.