Our love found us in the middle of our pain.
We sat in solid colored chairs against blank walls and waited for the nurses to call my name, over and over and over again. He held my hand during the waiting for the nurses, he rubbed my back during the waiting for the doctors. There was always waiting.
It felt best when he was there waiting with me. Holding my hand as I squeezed his own during all the blood draws. Sleeping in the waiting room during my MRI. It put me at ease knowing if my body freaked out or I passed out suddenly that he was only a couple feet away.
We worked hard the first couple years after I got sick. We were desperate to understand each other, even more desperate to be understood. My disease brought out more fears and insecurities than I knew I had; growth was both needed and desired.
We were best friends turned sweethearts, turned life partners: the greatest progression in our eyes.
We took our vows under showers of rain. Sometimes the brightest times are best understood amidst a background of darkness. The train of my dress dragged through puddles of water as I approached the man in navy waiting for me at the end of the aisle.
Often we have to trudge through streams of rain before walking through rays of sunshine.
We barely noticed the cold, wet weather, as our hands clasped tight; our only care was the road lying before us. We smiled through the rain because we’d already seen the sun shining through in more ways than one.
There’s no trace of date nights or weekends away, but instead hope for tomorrows full of everything we can’t do now.
We sit silently together, just two hearts aching during our biggest pain.
Every marriage is simply two hearts aching, or rather, living, only together now. We grow when we share our hurts.
My hand is held gently within his own and his voice is a steady distraction from the pain. He reads to me until my eye lids grow heavier and I fall into a much welcomed sleep–a semi break from the pain. Or maybe not a break, but rather a couple hours of not feeling it to its full affect until I’m waking up in the dark and he’s handing me a fresh ice pack.
It’s been over a year already of this since we vowed to carry each other’s burdens, and now we lie silently next to each other, me hurting too much, and him hurting too much watching. Our eyes meet each other’s ever so often and we just know: there is no need for words when understanding comes with only a look. We can sit in silence together because my pain is his now and his is mine, and no one but us will walk through this together–it’s such a personal pain. We can now keep our mouths closed because of the openness of our hearts. All frustrations are only for the other’s pain, and all sorrow is only in not being able to take it away. We both lie in silence, looking up, because it’s the only direction we know to be looking. Silently waiting. Always waiting.
He whispers you’re my anchor, you keep steady. He doesn’t realize he’s my whole dang ship. Giving me safe passage during our longest sail.
I meet his eyes and we both know: without the pain we’d only be looking into the other person, but not quite peering into their soul. Our individual pain grows the same flowers in each of our souls, connecting us, and the growth is what causes us to smile through it. And that’s what we do; I shake from the pain outwardly and he crushes from my pain inwardly, but we’re smiling at each other because the gardens are already blooming. His understanding watered mine, and my understanding watered his. And all that’s left is a look, an arm squeeze, an expression, and words aren’t needed any longer. Our eyes might say it all.
By loving the other person, you’re planting their garden. You have the potential to grow new life where there was none, or bring back life where there were flowers dying. All love spurs on growth, and all growth spurs on love. And this process allows us to individually weed our gardens, as marriage is more of a blatantly honest mirror for ourselves than it is anything else. We see ourselves clearly when we come to the crossroads of our human nature and who we want to be for that other person.
That’s why it’s so hard to love someone and then to lose them, because they’ve planted seeds in your soul that won’t easily be extracted.
To be struck with disease soon after we began our journey, and still be chosen day after day for years on end…that sounds the most like love. Deep love. The kind of love only created by God.
There is great romance found in commitment. Not something many believe today. To be fully known down to your deepest flaws and loved deeper still? Now that’s romance that lasts.
Change is inevitable for the garden. Any seed planted goes through great alteration to become the flower it’s intended to be. You must learn to love someone best through their seed phase, their growing through the dark phase, and their beaming in full glory phase. Then again when they grow through the dark once more into a new masterpiece, for we are all perennials, going through dark periods several times over our lifetimes. Different seasons warrant different types of love and care.
Now he helps me off the couch and and walks me to the restroom–its taken several times to learn the right combination so my strength isn’t used, my muscles aren’t hurt and his balance is kept intact. Love is a lot of learning how to best help each other.
And help he does. As soon as he walks through the door it’s 100% energy towards taking care of me; cooking, cleaning, dishes, retrieving pills, heat packs, ice packs, foot massages, walking me back and forth to the bathroom, changing me out of clothes into pajamas, helping me shower, and more. And on a good day for me, its still most of these things…my husband has turned to caretaker without a choice, and yet still chooses to bring as much love into it as he can.
He comes home one day weeks ago and I’m sharing about the heaviness of the load that is all this, then suddenly I’m crying and in between sobs I can only get out “it’s too much…I can’t do it…please…” and he rests my head to his shoulder and replies “I’ll do it now. I’ll take care of it all,” and I’m struck hard by the realization that he is embodying a Greater Love by him taking on my burdens. He would take them all if he could.
He whispers of the garden that’s to come as we weather this storm together, speaking of the flowers he has already seen bloom. He tells me tales of our future: the energetic kids running around…trips from Scottish moors to small Swiss towns…how worth it this trial is for the life we have coming. He paints pictures for me until hope is dancing out the fears in my head.
And we’ve learned life is never packaged up all nicely with a pretty little bow. It’s more crinkled and torn, and mended with tape, all while holding something tender that’s possible to break.
Life never is delivered in a perfect package. And to be honest, it probably wouldn’t be as beautiful. Life without conflict is just mundane goodness, instead of experiencing the rich greatness that life is after having tasted the depth of trials. Conflict is so very necessary within relationships, because without it, there is no growth. And the best thing about relationships is the constant growing and changing into each season that presents itself. The first part of meeting someone new is adrenaline and excitement, but to dig through the layers of your partner and sit within the sweet depths of each other, well it’s kind of like experiencing bits of new life each year within the same journey.
For now, we sit in the sickness, and while our tears have been our tune, our love will become our anthem. This disease has left us immobile but has also set us up for ways to move in the future like we never have before.
I ache as I hear and see people who decide another’s sickness is “too much” for them as they pack their bags to leave. I ache because I would crumble without my husband. I would break without his holding me together when I can’t hold myself together anymore. I ache because those people are showing that because their partners are sick, they are too much for them…
My disease is no longer my own, since I’ve invited him along on my journey and he’s invited me on his. It has ceased to be merely me–as long as I’m holding his hand he is holding my heart, and this is a we thing.
Our love was there all along, carrying us safely through the waves of pain, trial, and life… though we didn’t choose it, our pain is our rite of passage to see and hear others more clearly, for the rest of our lives.
And now we know:
It was our pain that found us in the middle of our love.