A week ago I witnessed a wedding. When the bride and groom repeated the words "in sickness and in health," the smiling face of a faithful wife came to my mind's eye. She shared her story with me over a cup of coffee; I was so encouraged and inspired by the way she currently faces the challenges of being a Marriage Survivor.
After 18 years of marriage, Elaine found herself abandoned and left alone with 3 children. She pressed on through a decade as a single mom. Hugh was abandoned and left with 3 children of his own. They were both lonely, and Elaine felt as if she had few options to meet her needs. Despite spiritual differences, Elaine and Hugh married. She is honest and open about the challenges and consequences of marriage, when one of you is a follower of God and one of you is not. I've always respected how honoring and loving Elaine has been in her conversation and decisions, while married to a man who doesn't know Christ as his Savior. She has been a living example of 1 Peter 3:1 ~
"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives..."
Sometimes our vows are not easy to live out. It's in "sickness" when we show that love is an ACTION, a CHOICE, not simply a feeling. For most of their married lives, Elaine's sweetheart was an Economics Professor, teaching graduate university students. He was the Chief Financial Officer for a large government agency in the South, testifying for Congress during the summers. He often traveled to speak and lecture regarding his field of expertise. In his free time Hugh was a master gardener, lovingly tending their yard full of manicured plants. All that has faded into their past.
Now in their early 70's, Elaine and Hugh face a new challenge. It's not uncommon for Elaine to be awakened at night, finding her husband wandering in the house. Dressed in layers of clothing, including t-shirts and suit pieces, packing pens and tools in his pockets, he'll be giving a lecture fit for a university or seminar or Congressional audience. Elaine helps put his briefcase away, assure him he's done well, removes some of the layers, empties the pens, and helps him back to bed. Most of the "Hugh" she's known has been lost to the attacks of Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD). The disease is progressive, and Hugh will degenerate rapidly. He has moments of clarity, and for those, Elaine is grateful.
Elaine is finding new ways to communicate with Hugh and meet his needs. Like she may have for her children long ago, she makes picture cards of dishes to place on cabinets and make them easy to find. She plans a notebook of pictures of food, so as the disease progresses she can "love, honor, and cherish" in new ways. "In sickness and in health" is not easy when we live it out.
When I asked Elaine how I could pray for her, she asks for 1 Peter 3 kinds of things ...
- Most of all, pray for moments of clarity, so Hugh will still have an opportunity to understand Christ's love for him and respond with a desire for salvation.
- Patience to provide for his care and not become angry.
- Health of her own, so she can care for the man she promised to care for.
- A sense of humor, because, with God's help, we can enjoy our mate in every season.
- Their future, whatever that may look like.
So did you mean it? When you promised to "love, honor, and cherish" in "sickness and in health"?
To enter this week's giveaway of another beautiful donated set of jewelry made by Antoinette, leave a comment sharing something about Elaine's example that encourages you. Today's gift reminds me of trusting, peaceful, faithful Elaine; pearls are shaped when a grain of sand is irritated, and something precious comes from something hard. Thank you to Antoinette for sharing these lovely gifts! I'll share the winner on Wednesday.