This week's Living Letters contribution is 1 Corinthians 13:6-8 in action, and comes to us from Maureen.
Just a few weeks ago, my husband who gently teases me about the blog and my "obsession" with the movies, called us Soulmates. We were discussing some relational woes among two couples we know when he looked at me and said,"when you've found you soulmate, love isn't hard." This from my reserved, private husband who finds "ways to say I love you without saying I love you" on an almost daily basis.
We met almost 14 years ago to the day of this writing. Not in the traditional sense or by chance at a coffee cart. He was the face in a crowd on Match.com. I was in my late 30's, a college graduate, an educator. Tired of blind dates and unlike the movies not meeting a man at church, the grocery store, the gym or at work. School systems actually frown on teachers dating and really frown on dating parents. Over the years I had dated some nice, good men, but not the right man until I saw my husband's kind eyes and sardonic grin. We clicked right away but...
Like me my husband had dated and like me had been hurt. We had grown up with parents with successful marriages, attended church with our Catholic mothers while our Protestant fathers supported our faith development in their own ways. He was 41 and still looking for a partner who wanted more for her beloved than herself. While we didn't wear armor, my husband jokes he had to crawl through the mine field, cut the barbed wire fence swim the alligator infested moat and scale the castle wall to win my heart. I listen to "And so it Goes" and know Billy Joel knows my husband. To win entry to the sanctuary, I had to study the cannon placement, looked for the pots of hot oil and pass a few quizzes (Does she like dogs? Music? Does she like the outdoors? How important is primping?).
After a year of dating we got engaged then married in October 2005. He was the reason I woke every morning.We fixed up our house. My husband promised to never hurt me on purpose, to make me laugh every day and take me on an adventure. We traveled. We laughed. We dreamed. Things weren't perfect. We didn't get pregnant, we each changed jobs, my brother in law died, but we were happy and we had found our life and it was you. Then something changed.
Dark of Night
After 3 years of marriage my husband seemed tired all the time. He had a stomach bug he couldn't shake. He finally saw a doctor then a specialist. On Palm Sunday 2009 I heard the priest say that while we have the joy of Easter we first must experience not only the cross but each of us must enter the tomb like Peter. I heard a small voice in my heart say "be ready." On Easter Monday we received the devastating news that my husband who presented symptoms but no risk factors had stage 3 colon cancer. My husband, a business analyst and project manager decided to fight to be on the "good side of the numbers." He first told me it would be ok if I left. I hadn't signed up for this. I reminded him that our vows said forever. Then he asked me to be his rock. I couldn't cry in front of him while I fought my demons. I spoke of my fears to others.
I must confess that part of my guarded heart came from losing both my parents and an older sister during a 6 year nightmare between ages 30-36. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 22. I lost her at 30. Like Shane I lost a little faith. After my sister died too young waiting for a liver transplant due to a congenital defect, I stopped praying for God to intervene although I attended church weekly. Just like Oliver. And just like Oliver by the time my father died I had been stripped of almost everything that I used to define myself. I looked for answers not in my faith life but in books.The Mitford series, Ann of Green Gables, the Joshua books. Nothing really helped. I buried myself in work, the only place that still felt right and where I was successful. Like Oliver.
What did I receive? A series of small miracles. A boss who let me work around doctor's appointments and treatments and who more than once told me to go home to check on Tom when his voice didn't sound right on the phone. A neighbor who mowed the lawn for 6 weeks and whose wife and son weeded our flower beds and prepared them for fall. A friend who drove from Ohio to stay with me the weekend after his surgery. A niece who left her family in another state and arranged to work in a nearby office the week I brought Tom home after his surgery. Friends who called, sent emails, checked on our dogs. A coworker who drove my husband to work when he could make it in, allowing him to sleep during the 100 mile per day round trip and who never told a soul how really sick he was. Good, affordable health care through work, without which we would have lost our house, and perhaps my husband's life, since the drugs were experimental. Most of all my private husband who had always been the giver and never asked to receive, learned that people are good and concerned and will help when asked without payment or reciprocity. I also know that I was a "Divine Delivery" of sorts because my husband has confessed he only went through all of this for us. If we wouldn't have met he would have quietly done or said nothing, even to his parents.
Hope and a Future
So here we are. In 8 weeks we will reach the 8 year mark since the surgery that gave him a second chance in life but resulted in a permanent colostomy. In March we passed the 2 year mark of being released from the care of his oncologist after 5 clean years. My husband and I will never have children due to radiation, and are too old to adopt because of the time span one must be cancer free in order to apply. He has permanent neuropathy in his feet due to the side effects of the powerful drugs that killed the cancer cells. We are together. But we finally talk of retirement in a few years and cautiously talk of growing old together. However I don't ask for forever; I thank God each day that I wake up beside my soulmate.
As always, the Living Letters series continues as long as there are stories to share, and I'm always looking for submissions. If you would like to contribute something about how Signed, Sealed, Delivered has impacted your life that you'd be willing to share here on A&D, feel free to email me.