Pinkie Rings

301A1984-A8AD-4A71-8183-1AD19F754415As 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.

Sacred Hugs

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Recently, I’ve had several beautiful and painful moments with my arms wrapped around someone I love. Or with their arms wrapped around me. They’re unforgettable moments: sacred hugs, a holy exchange of unconditional love. Holding each other. Not wanting to ever let go. Pillowed in between the feelings and raw emotions of it all. Feeling the weight of a painful illness, a shitty day at work, a difficult goodbye, an overwhelming sense of appreciation, acceptance, or recognizing our humbling dependence on one another.

I held my grandma in her bathroom today. The best that I could. I apologized for not being as graceful or skilled in maneuvering her as I would have liked. As I held the delicate skin and bones of one of the strongest women I’ve known, I also held back tears. I know a little of what it’s like, as a strong-willed independent adult woman, to be half naked in the bathroom. Fully dependent on another to help get to the bathroom or shower. I don’t know what it’s like to be a grandmother and to need your granddaughter’s help. So I hugged her. I wanted her to look in my eyes and know that it was an honor. A beautiful moment for me.

A sacred hug.

I wanted her to not feel like a bother but for her to know that it was a privilege that I could help her with an admiring granddaughter’s love. I lifted her towards the back of her wheelchair. I told her I loved her. It was a sacred moment that I will never forget. Her voice. Her eyes. Her arms wrapped around me. My long arms holding her frail body. I will never forget the love. The pause in time. Our two hearts beating next to one another. As long as I live.

I wished that every employee that helps with her care could see what I saw when I looked at her. A woman whose body ached most likely every day of her adult life but you would never know it. A woman who cares deeply for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. A woman who could cook enough food for the masses. Made from scratch. Food that never had tasted so good before. A woman who always served every one else first and rarely sat down at the table. And if she did, she quickly got up to help serve someone seconds. A woman who tenderly loves the beautiful innocent creatures in life. A woman who can smile and appreciate the beauty left despite all that’s been slowly taken from her. A woman who shares humorous, meaningful and difficult stories of growing up on a farm. A daughter. A sister. A mother. A grandmother. A great grandmother. A kind, self-sacrificing and loving friend to all.

Usually when I’m leaving and tell my grandma that I love her, she says, “I know you do, Amelia.” Today, when I told her I loved her she replied,

“I love you too. Not just cause you help me.”

I don’t know how many sacred hugs I will get in my life. The ones I’ve given and received have held a glimmer of this indescribable kind of hope and love and this raw beauty that connects two human beings. In a hospital, on a driveway, in a bathroom, stuck in a moment with each other. Needing to feel loved and understood. No matter what.

We arrive into this world dependent on one another to survive. We need each other throughout our lives even when we can disguise our dependence. Even if when we can walk, talk and do things on our own, we always need each other’s love. Always. From the very beginning to the very end.