Remember your vows? “In sickness and in health, ‘till death do us part.” Your marriage vows probably said something similar. It’s sad when you or your spouse experience a major surgery, accident, or illness. You pull yourself together, tell yourself “this too shall pass,” and look forward to getting back to normal in a few weeks or even months. But when the “sickness” part settles in for the long haul it gives you opportunity to show how committed you really are to those vows. You may have entered the world of family caregiving.
A few years ago I interviewed Jared Dunten and his wife for our radio program. Jared suffered a broken neck and injured spinal cord in a diving accident, and has been paralyzed from the neck down ever since. While in his wheelchair he met and married Kimberly, and they now have two wonderful boys. While everyone hopes Jared will one day be able to walk again, that’s not likely. Watching Jared and Kimberly together demonstrates both the challenge and the beauty of long-term love in the face of sickness.
I’ve had several conversations with one of the support staff at one of the hospitals where I work. Her husband has been on dialysis for over ten years, and just got out of the hospital again for the “thousandth” time. “This has been my life,” she said. Both her fluctuating emotions and her resilience in the face of his chronic illness speak to the weight she carries and her inner strength through it all.
My husband Al is also fighting chronic illness. Some days he feels great and does much of what any healthy person would do. Other days it’s a struggle just to get up, eat, breathe, and sit down again. The doctor’s visits, medications, and never knowing whether he’ll be “OK” on any given day, do get old. While we continue to pray for God’s strength and healing, humanly speaking we know there may be difficult days in the months and years ahead.
Yes, there are times I cry. Not often. And most of the time I try to not let him see my tears. I don’t want to add any more weight to what he’s already carrying.
But I’m also happy. I wouldn’t trade a moment with my husband for anything in the world. Through this I’ve learned a lot about what the foundations of marriage are all about. Every marriage has challenges, and these keys are important whether your challenge is sickness or something else.