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We had planned a golf vacation for the week of our upcoming anniversary.  Leisurely, playful days followed by candlelit meals in interesting restaurants.  Instead we will be spending that week focusing on my husband’s recovery from surgery.  Nothing life threatening but nonetheless inconvenient and painful.  He will be in the small minority of people who have had an ankle replacement.  (No, I had never heard of it either!)  But apparently it’s a real thing and a thing he needs to have done.

So the days we had both blocked off on our calendars as carefree days with a little romantic remembrance of our years together will take on a different look than planned.  “Carefree”?  Yes.  I will be taking CARE of him for FREE.  (Might as well laugh about it, right?)  And I suppose candles on the bed tray could pass for a romantic touch although I’m not certain the pain meds will allow him the clarity to know what it is we’re celebrating.

We, like so many young people to whom life has been good, had little idea what those words would encompass when we pledged to be there for one another “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”  In forty-four years we’ve seen the better and the worse, experienced both poverty and abundance, enjoyed health, endured illnesses, survived disappointment and celebrated successes. Life is a bit of a mixed bag that way, full of surprises that can both delight and devastate. Having someone by your side to sustain you in the hard times and share with you the good ones is a gift and one I never want to take lightly.  

Life is a bit of a mixed bag that way, full of surprises that can both delight and devastate.

I have already started praying that I can be a special blessing to my husband during his recovery.  Having been very physically active his entire life has made it difficult for him to accept certain limitations that this procedure will impose.  Although he will no longer be able to play basketball with our two grown sons, I have reminded him that his favorite sports (fishing, hunting and swimming) will not be affected.  And besides, he can still play golf with me!  I’m not actually sure that’s much of a highlight but I threw it in there anyway since my job is to encourage him in this time of physical challenge.

I watched my mom love my dad through five surgeries as he fought his battle with cancer.  Then I saw her stand by his bed singing and praying over him as he moved from this life to the next.  The perfect partner, she stood as strong and purposeful in his illness and death as she had in their rich, active life together.

Years later, I had the opportunity to be there for my mom as her own health failed.  When she was feeling well we made fun trips together, shopped, went out to eat and lived life with gusto.  I took her to Paris and twice to Mexico.  But when our trips were to the ER or to rehab or to the hospital for surgeries, I tried to show up with just as much gusto and whole heartedness.  Because that’s what we do for the ones we love.  In sickness and in health. . .

She stood as strong and purposeful in his illness and death as she had in their rich, active life together.

For years my friend, Jill Hamilton, and I shared grand adventures together. We enjoyed Bible studies, retreats, great conversations and coffee dates on a regular basis.  I savored our rich relationship and delighted in her company.  Then when serious illness covered her like a threatening cloud, the last thing I wanted to do was back away.  I flew to be with her in Vienna, Austria, where she was undergoing treatments not offered in the USA and stayed for two weeks.  Somehow I was able to make her laugh even on those dark days.  As the disease progressed, I cooked for her family, massaged her cramping legs and on the day of her last trip to the hospital showed up at her home with cupcakes and a dozen balloons to celebrate our “friendiversary”, the anniversary of the day we had met.

My memory bank of life with Jill is richly textured and deeply imprinted.  I still miss her laugh, the sound of her voice and the grace with which she maneuvered through this world.  I will always wish she were here but I am grateful that while she was, I was able to honor our friendship by showing up for her on the good days and the bad ones with equal zeal.

When we commit to another person, whether in friendship or in marriage, we are saying that we can be entrusted to care about their well being regardless of the circumstances.  I wish my husband didn’t need this upcoming surgery but he does and I want to be 100% there for him.  I’ll cook his favorite meals, rent some funny movies, keep the pillows fluffed and the sheets straightened, talk when he wants to and be quiet when he needs rest.  It’s not the anniversary we planned, but quite frankly, I can’t think of a better way to say “I love you”.