This post is from Jen’s friend Debbie. She has been blessed in marriage twice, and has been an example to so many on what it means to live out and support a husband in sickness and in health. We asked her to share a little about what that has meant for her and hope it blesses some of you today!
Have you ever made a promise to someone you knew was going to be difficult to keep? Did you pinky swear? That always makes things official, you know? It has been quoted multiple times, “Promises are made to be broken.” I must tell you, this is a myth. Promises are best when kept, no matter how difficult the task. Our story…
I met him, fell in love with him, and promised to love, honor, cherish and commit to him in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, for better, for worse, in poverty or in prosperity, till death do us part. I vowed these things before God and the well-dressed witnesses smiling in bow-laden church pews, candles glowing with my groom in a very uncomfortable dark navy tuxedo. My heart was full. My happiness overflowed on this my long awaited wedding day. I meant every recited word as I pledged my love to him. I promised.
Fast forward 10 plus years, two sons later. My husband was suddenly sick, hurting badly. He knew something was wrong. We sought help immediately. The doctors told us the battle would be long and would be hard to fight. The doctor was extremely accurate in his prediction. The battle raged.
As the illness grew stronger and he grew weaker, the idea of multiple medications, physical therapy, an amputated limb, wheelchairs, hospital beds, and sleepless nights all weighed heavy as I began to question my ability to transform from wife to nurse/care-taker as rapidly as his needs presented. I asked myself in numerous silent conversations, “Did I sign up for this?” “I thought I was to be the blushing, beautiful bride forever, not do ‘this’ for him.” “Why God? Why?” I was selfish. I was mad at the illness that was stealing him away from me. I continued to question my ability to take care of his needs. I cried, whined, but also prayed. My prayers were varied. Some days I prayed for his healing, some days I prayed for my own health and well-being. My sons prayed for their father. A lot of tears were shed. I would guess there were as many fallen tears as prayers offered up.
His pain worsened. His hope for a long life waned. He first asked and then begged for me to take his life, withhold his medication or give him more than was needed. He cried. I cried. We prayed.
We were thankful for days where his strength was good, especially if they fell on Sunday so that we could worship together, as a family. It was a very important part of our lives, but we missed many services due to his illness and healthcare needs. That week, we were welcomed into the church with hugs and handshakes from people we had not seen in quite some time. The minister was preaching a sermon series on The Ten Commandments, familiar material I assumed and then I heard HIM loud and clear, “Thou shalt not kill.” As my body shuddered from the impact of God’s Word, I heard another voice in my ears, my own words were echoing “In sickness and in health, in good times and bad, for better, for worse…” My vow, promise and commitment to him was written on the blackboard of my mind’s eye and I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could not ever help him end his life and that it was my honor to serve my husband in the capacity of care-taker until God choose to heal him. My frame of mind changed that day. I had a renewed sense of purpose and a spirit of thanksgiving. I continued to pray.
Time and illness continued to take its toll on his body and his mind. I began to pray for an answer in the form of divine healing, “please take him home Lord” I was not sure if this was okay to pray, but these were the words coming from my mouth. It was one of the most difficult prayers I had ever prayed. I wanted his earthly suffering to end. That same evening, he asked me to sit by the bedside as he talked, his voice unusually strong. We had not had a deep conversation like this in a very long time.
It was a cold December day, winds howling as a reminder of a new season blowing in. I remember his words well. I held onto his hand as he spoke about his heart-change that had taken place that day as he prayed. He spoke of a forgiveness that he had never felt before from his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I was surprised when he asked me to help him with the phone, dialing multiple numbers across state lines. He was telling friends and family of his relationship with Jesus. He asked for forgiveness from past wrongs he wanted to make right immediately. He made amends with people he once held very strong grudges against. I was dumbfounded at the change in him. I had no idea these deep issues even existed. I was feeling something new at that moment too; I was falling in love all over again, fresh love, for my husband; not a sick man in need of care and attention, but the man I loved greatly, the man I made a promise to many years before.
“Till death do us part.” It happened sooner than I had expected, but I held onto the Word, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” It was my hope and God’s promise. The Word brought comfort during the difficult days ahead. I tried to be strong for our sons, but they offered me strength. We got through the next few days sitting with the many people that visited with baked hams and scalloped potatoes running over. We were numb at some moments, crying with sadness of his passing, and at other times, laughing at a funny memory of silliness, and the good days gone by.
Sympathy cards and phone calls came in large numbers those first few days after the announcement came of his death. The number of visits drew less and less as the world kept living at their normal pace. My new normal was foreign to me. I cherished a friend’s call or visit as days grew into weeks and months.
During those first few months after he was gone, I reflected on how God answered the prayers of healing in His perfect time. He waited until reconciliation was made and all was well in his heart before calling him home. I often remember with joy, that moment when I fell in love with him all over again because I saw before me my groom, not a sick body in need of care, but a man that I made a promise to.
As I looked through the envelopes the mail man had just delivered, I wondered who would be sending me a card. It was not my birthday nor any holiday where a card might be expected. I was full of anticipation, a card, I love cards! As I read the words, tears began to fall. The handwritten note from one of his many doctors read, “I have never known anyone to keep their marriage vows the way you did. You were an example to many…in sickness and in health, till death do you part.”