The envelope containing the annulment letter lay next to me, forgotten on the couch. The papers, the actual annulment decree and the letter informing me of what it was (as if I wouldn’t know), were held in my hands for only a few seconds. I skimmed more than read both papers.
The Archdiocesan letterhead in its blood red printing.
The greeting, my maiden name again, there just below my address. Later, I’d think back to the “Friendly Letter” lessons I’d taught my 5th graders as a new teacher at a Catholic school in Charlotte, NC.
Someone had taught the Archdiocesan secretary to write the heading correctly. Somewhere, an English teacher was proud of the layout of this “friendly letter.”
But I’d wonder if our lessons should have spent less time on friendly letter headers and more time on building faith and love for one another and on things like marriage prep – even in our elementary schools. I wondered how many of my students would now be more grateful to know how to find Love in themselves and in their spouses, to find worth given to them by the One True God, than how to write a friendly letter.
But those thoughts would come later.
Actually, many of the thoughts surrounding the annulment approval would come later which I didn’t realize in those moments sitting on the couch scanning those two thin pieces of paper.
I found myself skipping the big words and phrases (Interdiocesan Tribunal of the Province of New York and other such words were just too big to deal with at the time).
I concentrated more on words that repeated – our names with the words invalid, invalidity.
I had known, as much as one could, that the annulment would go through. By this time, I’d been through enough to have had at least a good idea of it, so I wasn’t surprised.
It wasn’t the annulment itself that caught my attention.
The paragraph that did and made me a bit nervous went like this:
Enclosed please find the official Decree that declares your marriage to __________ invalid according to the laws of the Roman Catholic Church. This is an original. Please keep it in a safe place. There is no duplicate.
That paragraph sent a small shiver of fear through my heart. We had gone through all of this and the Archdiocese wasn’t even keeping a copy of our annulment???
I’d need to check on that one day, but now, a few weeks later, that paragraph still scares me. With five boys, things can get messy. Where I was pretty organized before and am much better now than I was a few years ago, I can still misplace things. What if I lost this piece of paper? What if there was a fire? How would I save this document?
I remember thinking back to the months after my husband left. The memories still come back at strange times. I remember being afraid to sleep at night. I was pregnant and later had a new baby. How would I get all of these little children out of the house by myself if there was a fire? How could I protect them all by myself if someone broke in? How could he just walk away and “hope” our precious boys be okay with only me to guard over them?
Now, I thought of how I’d protect this document. If something happened to it and there was no duplicate, what would I do? Would we have to go through the process again? Would the decision be the same? Could I ask my ex———— for his copy?
I didn’t think that would go over well, and it brought up another question.
Could I ask my _______________. Ask my what? What did I now call this man I’d spent 17 years with? Who was he to me now? He was obviously not my husband. I was okay with, if not exactly comfortable with, saying that after 5 and a half years. But who was he?
As I sat down to write this post, the words just kept coming and coming, and I felt the need to split it into separate shorter posts so as to not overwhelm anyone (and to save myself some days of blogging! 😉 ) This is the first of what I am guessing will be a five part series. I will conclude my reaction to the annulment approval this Sunday. I hope you join me for the rest of my journey. Thank you for your patience.
Part V – My Chains ARE Gone!