Let me tell you about a church.
It's in a minor city, and it got bombed in World War Two. And it's beautiful, and particularly special to Ms T and me, a treasured memory from the past, a symbol of the future.
Returning from London to Australia more than ten years ago, we passed through Lübeck for no better reason than Ms T's family came from there in the late 19th Century (it's a lovely little place, by the way, and very walkable).
On of the places we visited was the Petrikirche – St Peter's Church – whose restoration after its WW2 bombing was “finished” in 1987. I put “finished” in quotes because it won't ever be fully restored. The interior was destroyed and nearly all of it lost, and that's how it remains.
When you walk in, you're struck by the pure white of the interior, except that in some spots there are what look like discoloured patches. It took us a while to work out that those were the tiny, tiny bits of the destroyed decorations that the Lübeckers were able to find, painstakingly and lovingly returned to their original locations. It's very striking and very touching.
It's almost tasteless to make the Petrikirche a talisman for our personal lives, but that's what Ms T and I have done.
Five years ago, her auto-immune system changed our lives and our relationship, and for nearly all of that time, our futures have had a very constrained window: sometimes death has been imminent, at others times we've let ourselves think a whole six months or year into the future.
This year, due to an unexplained (and now, thankfully, arrested) weight loss, Ms T's lead specialists went on the hunt for possible cancers, because her main therapy, cyclophosphamide is so toxic. It took a bunch of procedures, biopsies, imaging and nervous waits to lay that to rest. And we have a future to think about; five, maybe ten years, I dare not think of more.
We're still here, still together, still loving, still married, desperately aware that things have changed. We talk all the time, and a lot of that talk is about what happened, where we are, and how we can get back what we once had.
We can't, we now understand. And the Petrikirche has become part of the evening talk, as we try to describe ourselves to ourselves.
With a structure still standing, we find ourselves walking through rubble seeking that which we can save. We find pieces, talk about them, find where they once fit in our lives, see if they can be put back, and talk some more.
Our small, private ruin is too broken for perfection, but far too precious to abandon.