In the garment of discipleship
October 21, 2017
Cultivating an agri-mentality
October 21, 2017

A marriage adrift, a world away

Life in Papua New Guinea: Sharon Syriac (second from left) at the Hiri Moale Festival in 1995

by Sharon Syriac

In 1994 I made a mistake. I married my husband. How young I was then! Only 21 when I fell in love with his strength, brilliance and his ‘difference’. I met him at the UWI, six months after my mother passed away but I didn’t connect the trauma of my mother’s death with my need for adventure, escape.

He was a chief of a clan and the idea of chieftaincy and travel excited me. So quaint, I naively told myself. I was thirsty for an adventure and knew I would be a ‘first wife’ but foolishly, it never occurred to me that second and third wives could follow.

I did not consult God on my decision to marry him. Somehow I sensed He would not approve. Besides, I was too busy being ‘vex’ with God for taking away my mother, at 47. I had a chip on my shoulder and an axe to grind. How could I know then that it would have taken me years to finish grinding it? How could I know then that the consequences would linger for my decisions and indecision?

My fiancée approached my father and offered a bride-price. I was worth 27 pigs he said. He assured my dad that in his country, pigs are a sign of great wealth. My father refused his offer. Offended, he increased my bride-price, assuring my father that, “You are losing a worker in your household, but my clan is gaining a worker! Someone who will bear us sons and make our clan strong. I am compensating you for your loss.”

Again, my father refused the offer. My fiancée’s recognition of my use – and not my worth – greatly offended my dad. But I insisted on marrying him. Too young. Too naïve. Too foolish to know then that I was using this young man’s lifetime to pursue my adventure and prove to myself who I was.

We flew off to his country. He was the only person I knew there. That first night in the village, while moonlight spilled upon our thatched roof, a distant drum thumped through the wall of forest green and the leaf walls of our little hut seemed to shudder with each vibrating drumbeat.

When he blew out the lamplight and darkness penetrated our bush hut, the bamboo floor upon which I slept, creaked.  I melted into insignificance. He tugged at the string that held the mosquito net above and shafts of moonlight fell on the net that unfurled and cascaded around us, veiling us in shimmering white. I clung to him, desperately. I knew pure happiness, then.

I had come home to nest in Papua New Guinea, on that island that hung like a pendant on the South Pacific chain. Adrift in a sea of emotions, I was unwilling to believe then, that the vast differences in our two worlds could ever compete with the throbbing fantasies of young love.

But the vast differences grew. It festered like a sore. No children came. The clan grew restless. Their legacy of sons, denied. He grew distant. His status and expectations crumbled. Twelve years rolled by. In exile, I was cast aside, a discarded object, like a dead, yellow leaf which fluttering to the ground, twirls slowly in the wind, knowing it had long outlasted its usefulness.

Ashamed, like a woman caught in adultery, I stood accused of non-conformity, veiled in infertility. Doomed by invisibility and a sense of inadequacy, bitter bile thrust its way towards my chest, my heart, my throat. Enraged, I shoved the nausea aside and snapped it firmly behind the whirlpool of watery pain that constantly swirled around the corners of my eyes. I won’t let them drop. “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning”(Psalm 30:5). The night lasted 12 years. I fumbled in the darkness.

Alone, I returned home, clutching hope. Hope died. I divorced my husband. The stigma of divorce – its accompanying pain, anger and regret haunted me. Self-forgiveness was impossible. Then, two months ago I encountered the New Beginning movement for separated, divorced and widowed (SDW) Catholics. I did not know that such a Ministry existed.

Three times a year, the SDW Ministry of the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission organises weekends for Catholics like myself who have experienced loss through our changed marital circumstances. Broken, but determined to renew my place in the Church and in the world, I seek to begin again. The New Beginning Weekend allowed me the focus to discover myself in God’s plans, amongst men and women like myself, whose carefully cultivated fragile trust stands in need of forgiveness and healing.  TO BE CONTINUED