I will never forget that day. It was cold, wet, gray, even dreary and just a few days before Christmas.
The couple were gathered with their attorneys and the mediator in the small conference room. They looked across the table at each other with some sadness, some regret, some sorrow as each attorney delivered his opening statement. Their eyes were moist with the emotion of the moment.
The attorneys were brief. Their opening statements were largely fact based but both spent a moment to praise the couple for their dignity, their earnestness, their courtesy toward each other as they worked through this difficult process. The parties had been married for a long time. Their children had left the nest. They had done well amassing significant assets. There was nothing bad to say about anyone.
When the statements had been delivered, the parties separated to begin the long process of caucusing with the mediator to hammer out the framework of their agreement.
They were getting a divorce because of time and space and interest. Time had worn them down to each other. The space between them had become too great to find a way back. Neither was overwhelmingly interested in finding their way back to when they had felt joy in being together. They were done. That didn’t mean that they were happy about it. They both realized the lost opportunities, but the opportunities had been truly lost, they weren’t there anymore.
Realization that your marriage is over, that it is finally time for divorce, doesn’t make one giddy, doesn’t cause one to jump up and down. Instead, it is like the solemn realization that your house has been swept away by rising waters. It just isn’t there anymore. You are looking at what is left of it and it’s not enough to build a new house on. Now, all that remains are memories. The past haunts like a ghost. The future doesn’t lay on this property.
Over the course of the long day, the couple and their attorneys worked through each offer and counter-offer. Each calculation, each consideration was crafted with dignity and good faith, trying to find common ground. Slowly and surely they first created the framework and then dwelled over each small detail until everything was in black and white, the epitaph to their marriage.
And, as they came to their divorce, as they came to their mediation, so they managed their settlement, with dignity, courtesy and respect and with compassion to still look out for each other even in their marriage’s demise. They were no longer lovers. But they were intent to remain friends. They were determined to not let their choice render them enemies.
In the end, they initialed each page, they signed all the carefully crafted documents, the notary secured her stamp and crimped the final papers. The couple shared silent tears as they closed the book on what was left of them. They left mediation as solemnly as they entered.
A short time later as I looked out the window, I saw them in the parking lot. They were embracing.