Thursday, June 30, 2016

"For Better or Worse, In Sickness and in Health"...

                   Patience is not the ability to wait,
               but the ability to have a good attitude
               while waiting.
                                                 - Joyce Meyer
Statement/Question Made By Work Acquaintance(out of the blue and tone coming across as a bit sarcastic): 
"It must be a real drag (said with huge non-verbal emphasis) for you to make all of the adjustments you have made since Bert's stroke. I bet it's a real hard life-changer for you? Right? You must hate having to go through this awful thing."

My Answer: (speechless for a few seconds, finally...): "Drag?
Have to go through this? (hoping to be tactful) I appreciate your concern, I do. But what I would want you to know is that every day with my beloved Bert is a complete blessing from God for me."

Statement/question (unwilling to let this go): "But this isn't the retirement you planned. How in the world are you adjusting?"

My Answer:( trying to be patient, but wondering what is at the bottom of all of this): "Bert's stroke has been a challenge for us and an opportunity for us to get closer. Yes, some things have changed, and it has not always been easy. Yet he is the kindest, most wonderful and most grateful person I have ever known. He was that way before his stroke, and he is that way now. I cannot imagine not having him here. We are so grateful to God that Bert has had such a good recovery and that he is still alive. That's what we try to focus on every day. Bert is still here!"

Statement/Question: "No one is genuinely this sunny about something so awful, Linda. No one.

One of my growing edges in life is being patient. Okay, that's
a bit of an understatement.

Sometimes my impatience rears its ugly head and before I know it I have "had it." Usually others don't see that impatience welling up, but I can feel it growing inside my head and heart. Note to self: Perhaps my impatience is even a part of my blood pressure issues. The conversation described above, made by a supposedly well-meaning acquaintance at the college, is an example of where I almost lost it, at least internally.

Perhaps her intention was to show empathy.
Perhaps her intention was to find out information.
Perhaps her intention was to try and help.
Or perhaps her intention was to gossip and find out what was really going on beneath the surface.

As she said later on, "I find it hard to believe people when they describe their marriage as idilic." She went on to assert, "This for better or worse, in sickness and in health 'stuff' just doesn't seem realistic to me."

So... that's the crux of all of this.
It's about that for better or worse 'stuff.'

"Dear Lord, please give me patience. Please help me to not be defensive. Maybe she has never known a real "for better or for worse" couple?"

I have. I have known a "for better or worse" couple.

Dick and Martha Clark were like second parents to me. Their oldest daughter, Linny, was my best friend growing up and my dear friend to this day. Martha was diagnosed with MS in her early forties.
Both Martha and Dick were only children, and they loved each other with a mighty love, a solid love, a "for better or worse, in sickness or health" kind of love. 

As Martha got worse over time, who was always there was Dick. When she lost many of her capabilities, who was still there with a loving heart was Dick, her beloved husband. When Dick had to put Martha in a living facility because he had cancer, and could no longer take care of her medical needs, he still visited Martha all the time. He LIVED his wedding vows. He knew that if the tables had been turned, and he was the one with MS, Martha would have been there for him. She would not have loved him less. He would not have been an inconvenience.

True, their life "plan" didn't turn out quite the way they had hoped.
Yet their "new normal" was alive with such grace, gratitude, hope, love, depth and compassion that they showed others how to LIVE their wedding vows too.

No, a stroke was not in our plans. No, Bert's cancer was not in our plans either. Yet when my patience returned during this conversation (thank you God for answering my prayer), and empathy prevailed... I was able to tell this woman about Dick and Martha. I was able to tell her who Bert was to me. I was able to tell her that when my life was shattered, God brought Bert into my life to help heal my broken heart. I was able to tell her about Bert's faithfulness to me and his love for me that has been there every day. I was able to tell her that Bert is my beloved and that I love him more now, not less. I was able to tell her that if the tables were turned, and I was the one who had the stroke, Bert's love for me would never waver. 

I am as sure of that as I am sure that God loves me.

As I talked I saw tears cascade down her cheeks. She seemed 
a bit embarrassed. She owned that her intentions in talking to me may not have been all that honorable. She confessed that she wanted to put me on the spot because she just couldn't believe I was really all that people said I was. She said she felt jealous when she heard "Bert and Linda stories" at school. She confessed that she had seen Bert sitting in the front row at each conference where I talked and that I always walked over and kissed him in front of everyone.

"I want what you have," she said with small sobs coming out, her heart breaking right in front of me.

And then with God's grace, I hugged her. A deep hug. A knowing hug. She was hurt and felt lonely, even though she was married.
It was hard for her to see what marriage could be.

I reminded her, more gently this time, that God was our great Healer. We, Bert and I, had been through lots of challenges in our thirty four years together. Yet our healing came from God and our marriage was dedicated to Him. He was at the center, that's why it worked. Because He loved us so unconditionally, with all our flaws, we knew what REAL love was. We could love each other that way because He first loved us "for better or for worse."

God loves us and keeps every vow He made to us! His love endures through MS and strokes and cancer. His love and grace are more powerful than any disease could ever be.

Dick and Martha knew that, too. That "for better or worse", that "in sickness or in health" stuff...well, they knew it came from Him. 

He is our author for unconditional love.

And as I released this acquaintance from my hug, I saw someone like me. The me before knowing God, the me before having Bert love me. I knew her because she was me. And because we were transparent and honest in this conversation, our relationship at school would never be the same.

She was now my friend.

What I know for sure is that in every circumstance, some things
remain the same. They are unbendable. You can count on them! God's LOVE is like that for me. 

How grateful I am to know how much God loves me...and 
to have that "for better or worse" stuff (said smiling :)) with my beloved Bert!

May you know today that God loves you, for better or for worse."
God Bless!
Love, Linda


Vicky said...

I could feel my own blood pressure starting to rise! But do you know what I admire the most? Despite how you felt, despite understanding the lack of good intention, initially on her part, and her willingness to badger you- YOU didn't give in. You stuck with her, and heard her out. Then you spoke such wise and caring words to her- you ministered to her when she so desperately needed it!! I don't know that I would have been able to do that! I would have turned, wounded and hurt, and run. I don't do conflict well- to sit with it- and take it! I so commend you for sharing about Dick and Martha to her- what special people they sound like and it seems that you and Bert have modeled your own way in life similar to theirs!

I love that people share Bert and Linda stories! I'm so blessed to know you and take such mentoring and wisdom from you- always! Love you, Linda!! To the moon- and all the way back!

On a Wing and a Prayer said...

Linda, what beauty! Like Vicky I could feel your shock and the rising temp.! However I feel sad that this person even felt this way. To love so deeply, to HONOR and CHERISH! Oh my...there is no burden there. What a Honor to be with the one you love, what a honor to cherish them every day! you are above all so blessed by the love you and Bert share!...... this is the love I want.... love you so!

Finding Comfort in Kindness...sharing from the heart

                                If every person made it a rule that                          wherever you are, whenever you              ...