Sunday, December 7, 2014

In Sickness and in Health

We went to a lovely wedding this weekend and witnessed a young couple  who are madly in love commit to each other for a lifetime. When my husband and I made the same promise 31 years ago, we were in perfect health, filled with energy and the promise of a new and exciting future together.

Thankfully my husband didn’t squeeze my hand during the ceremony when they spoke the words, “In sickness, and in health.” I wouldn't have been able to contain the tears already flooding my eyes, tears from the weariness of a long season of physical challenges, most of them mysterious, some of them scary and much of them seemingly endless.
The stress issue for me in our marriage when I entered this season of suffering is knowing my circumstances are changing my husband's circumstances. My dark days envelop his days with that same gloom – and I want to protect him from the discomfort and worry.  I want to go it alone so he can remain at peace. “But when a husband loves a wife, he wants to serve you in this way,” said a dear friend recently. “He wants to join you on that journey.”
And Bill would agree. Despite the fact that this wife who once made excellent meals for a family rarely makes a meal anymore, does the laundry, cleans the house, or allows guests to come unless much help is offered, my husband never complains. I did have a dream last night that I found myself fighting with him because I asked him for a cookie and he screamed at me that he wasn’t bringing me a stinking cookie because all he does these days is wait on me hand and foot – and he was fed up! “But I just asked for a cookie,” I whined in the dream. When I woke and told him the dream, he laughed and promised he would always be willing to bring me cookies.
As if to confirm my friend’s words about his willingness to walk with me through this, Bill gave me a CD by artist Liz Longley for my birthday because he heard the song, “When You've Got Trouble,” and it reminded him of our present journey: 
Oh my heart is tangled all around you
When you've got trouble, I've got trouble too
Oh my life is arm and arm with you
When you've got trouble, I've got trouble too

You and I live like the tree and the vine
Oh my darling we're so delicately intertwined
I'll ease your pain 'cause you've eased mine

We sat at a Christmas festival last night behind a very aged but affectionate couple. The man attempted to stand a couple of times to join in the Carole singing, but needed to rest again in his seat. Maybe from pain. Maybe from weariness. The wife would look down at him, smiling warmly from time to time with a loving rub to his back. A couple times she joined him to sit and held his hand, smiling at him during many of the songs. They must’ve been in their eighties, but I saw how delicately their lives and arms still were carefully intertwined, walking late into their journey, probably more "in sickness" rather than "in health" these days. The darling couple reminded me we will all arrive there someday.
In my own life, I'm so grateful for the longevity  of a tangled up relationship, tangled sometimes with messes and stresses, but mostly tangled with love and affectionate and shared memories of laughter and unimaginable kindness and sacrifice - in sickness and in health.

As my young friends begin their honeymoon and depart on their own journey, I pray their lives will find many days of health and laughter, and that their arms remain linked and tangled together when the struggles do arrive. In sickness and in health, may life and love for them be full and never wanting.