“Do we need to go to the hospital?”
My husband asked me this yesterday. We had an awesome date night, but things took a turn down the wrong road. I had mistreated my fragile guts and they quickly got out their signs. A protest of sorts. They were on strike. Not working. As a result, my stomach became the intimidating bouncer, circling the crowd, the big scary one that everyone listens to. “EVERYBODY OUT!” Forcing food, drinks, and bile to dramatically exit. Out the front door. My husband knows the signs. He knows the drill. What he may not know is how much his words, “do we need to go the hospital?” affect me. Not do “you” but do “we.” We are a team. What happens to me and my body affects him, my kids, my whole family. It disrupts, rearranges, and alters plans. Also it makes people worry about me. A lot.
He knew before we got married that this disease could occasionally dictate my life. No matter how hard I fight the disease, it just wins sometimes. Or it thinks it does. “You want to get married in August?” I don’t think so. The disease does what it wants. Often in a destructive, chaotic, and cruel way. I get to choose how I will respond. We had to postpone our wedding. Ironically, I sent out the cutest “save the date” lottery scratcher cards. You scratched the wrong date, folks. If having to postpone your wedding due to surgeries gone wrong is not enough to scare a potential spouse away, then you’ve got to be really into me. Or a little crazy. Or both. Not everyone gets the opportunity to witness how “the one” will react to sickness, real sickness before they sign the papers. Seeing someone you love moaning in pain, hurting, pissed, crying on the bathroom floor with greasy hair. Hopeless. Apathetic. Scared. That’s a lot. For even the most saintly of folks. I didn’t have a lot of money, either. Actually, I had credit card debt.
The kicker is that my husband has never made me feel that guilt, embarrassment or shame. That’s something I do to myself. I think a lot of us do. He’s constantly there holding this massive amount of grace, understanding, compassion and humor too. That I desperately need. It wakes me up, the laughing. I’ve always been a sucker for laughing at inappropriate times. Especially at my own expense. He’s holding his arms wide open for me, always, showing me what unconditional love does. More than words. The action oriented, super hero fighting kind of love. It lays in your hospital bed with you. It holds your hand through the grossest procedures. It takes over every household duty. It doesn’t keep score. It tells you “you’re so beautiful” when you feel the farthest from beautiful. I can only hope that my sons will learn this most graceful way of handling hurt and pain from watching their dad. He knows when I’m fragile and he handles me with the most gentle tone and touch. I imagine that if every person felt this kind of unselfish love and sacrifice, the world would be different. Better.
Don’t get me wrong. He’s not perfect. Like me. He leaves clothes, shoes, hats and receipts everywhere. He gets really pissed when he steps on Legos or when the boys have opened his good guitar and maybe played on it. He loses stuff too, like his wallet and keys. Though, it’s hard to get annoyed with that tendency. If only in our irritated, frustrated, pissed off with each other moments, we could just stop and focus on how great of a team we make when life is hard. Really hard. And that’s what matters the most.
Leonard Cohen, who my husband happens to love, has a song “Anthem.” A part of the chorus says:
“There is a crack, a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in.”
So once again, I’m thankful to be reminded, in a rather unexpected way, that my cracks are there to help reveal the most beautiful parts of others. The helpers. The encouragers. The love-you-so-incredibly-much they would take all your pain away. Through my struggles, others, especially my husband, teach me that the cracks invite people in. They let the light in. And they prove that brokenness can actually be quite the opposite of what it looks like from the outside.