As we sit together in the waiting room, I hand him my wedding rings. It’s our pre-surgery ritual of sorts. He delicately slips them onto his pinkie finger. Well, not really, he shoves them down over his knobby knuckle. His fingers are strong and wider than mine, probably from playing all of the instruments.
He will proudly wear my wedding rings as I fall into an anesthesia-induced sleep. He will wait and pace and drink bad coffee and then wait some more for the surgeon to be done. He will anxiously wait for me to come to the recovery room.
Over the years, he has unexpectedly become an expert hospital cafeteria food critic. He has gotten lost in far too many hospital hallways. He has spent hours upon hours in the waiting room. And I know he would do it all over again.
He would choose me. Complicated old me. He would marry me all over again tomorrow.
I slowly open my eyes. I’m confused. And sleepy. He is there. I relax and close them again because I still feel so sleepy. I’m awake. Again. I’m hurting. So badly. He quickly gets the nurse. I hear him talking to her. He knows I’m not one to complain. He knows me. He knows that I need more pain medicine.
He is hurting, too.
In a different way than me.
He gets no narcotics.
He won’t leave me. He stays right beside me in all of the tiny hospital rooms. He holds my hand. Or he rests his arm gently on the bed because he doesn’t want to hurt my fragile body.
This is hard. This is selfless. This is not me dancing in a silk wedding dress. This is me writhing in pain in an oversized unisex hospital gown. It seems that there is nothing in this for him.
I’ve lived long enough to know that this kind of love is rare.
This is a small glimpse of my husband’s love for me.
When I’m more alert and my pain is not controlling my mind, I tell him that he can go. He doesn’t want to but I need him to make sure our kids are doing okay too. He is pulled in a million different directions but he manages to handle the uncertainty, the chaos, and the unfairness of it all with an unearthly amount of patience, and the most delicate form of kindness and grace. Gut-wrenching grace. I love him every day of the week but the days I spend in the hospital and in recovery, I somehow love him so much more.
He fills me up when I am empty. Tired. Worn out and in too much pain to be mad. When all of my dignity has been scattered throughout that hospital, he searches patiently and always finds it. Then, he secretly delivers it back to me without making a big scene.
I can try but his faithfulness and his love for me is hard to describe in words. I feel it. He carries me through, somehow without ever needing to lift my aching body.
Could the greatest gift to our marriage be this never-stopping, forever humbling, life-altering, soul-shaking disease? I don’t know. It’s probably not fair for me to answer for the both of us.
I’m not the one wearing the pinkie wedding rings.
What I do know is that God has these sneaky beautiful soul-capturing ways to show his love and tenderness through the worst and most unfair situations. Failed surgeries. Complications. Loss. Pain. Uncertainty. But yet, Hope with a capital “H” has taught us how to be honest, forgiving, humble, patient and ever grateful for the days we get to spend together.
Fourteen years of marriage. Together. A twisting, turning, chaotic, unpredictable, beautiful and hard journey that we have learned to embrace together.
I’m forever grateful and proud of the husband he is. I’m honored that he is willing to wear my wedding rings on the days when I can’t.
Oh, how I love you, Cory. The morst. To the moon and back. To infinity and beyond. A million billion.