Then there was only love

{repost from 7/2021}

As wives we do all the things to take care of our husbands. Packing lunches and ironing shirts (including the time the steamer gave me third degree burns) and planning date nights.

(But I’m not a wife now, so I guess my version is past tense…)

We do it because we love them and also because it helps the marriage. It’s a give and take, with hopefully more giving than taking.

But then it all changes. Overnight.

Overnight I went from wife to caregiver. From lover to nurse.

And I was in shock.

And when we got home from the hospital two weeks later, I was sad.

And a couple weeks after that I was angry. And resentful.

(PS, you are not allowed to say those are wrong emotions if you’ve never gone through this the end.)

Because this new way of taking care of him was not something I asked for. Didn’t have an asterisk in those wedding vows. In sickness and in health meant the sniffles or something like that. Not brain cancer.

I watched him walk out of the shower and my heart dropped to the floor. His beautiful, manly linebacker legs reduced to skin and bones. He looked 80.

And I tried to ignore it. I tried to not look. But I had to look. Because I had to shower him and get him dressed. And then he became independent again and then he needed me again, to do everything for him.

Everything.

And in between my heart was changed. From a heart of stone to one of flesh.

And oh it hurt. So bad it hurt. Loving him through all the hurt. But as St. Teresa said, if we love until it hurts, there can be only love.

And then there was only love.

I moved beyond resentment and into compassion. Beyond seeing what I missed in him and into what he needed from me. He needed the hands of his other half to care for his failing body.

And caring for his body was not only the greatest thing I could do for him but also the greatest source of intimacy we ever experienced as husband and wife.

To hold his head as I was shaving him. His body as I bathed him. To see him talk to me with his eyes. To communicate and love one another through only a language we knew.

And while I never received flowers or rarely a thank you, I did get the best gift I ever could from him: to know and experience how to truly love.

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