My mother is on her second marriage. The first one lasted 15 years. Her current one is going on 30. Impressive figures by modern stakes. I, her youngest son, carry 11 years under my own belt, yet she still teaches me about the power of commitment and service— especially when times get hard.
Her husband of 30 years is dying. Cancer.
A few days ago, his doctor informed him and my mother that the chemo wasn’t working—and the disease was spreading rapidly. After months of treatment, medicine and therapy, all they can do at this point is keep him comfortable in his own home. This man has been extremely fortunate to have my nurturing mother at his side during his fight for life.
And I think to myself, may we all be so lucky to not have to face death alone.
Is that not one of the reasons why we form lifetime bonds in the first place? Not just for a life partner, but a death partner—and even an afterlife partner for some?
I admit my mother’s relationship with her ailing husband wasn’t the stuff made from fairy tales. Knowing what I do about their relationship, I can’t say I don’t spend many nights wondering whether or not he deserves my mother’s care during his final moments on Earth. Like many of us, this man carries deeply-regretted demons to his grave. Demons that have hurt my mother to her core during what’s supposed to be her “Golden Years.” By most people’s standards, my mother would have every right in the world to tell her beloved husband that he’s brought it upon himself to face sickness alone.
But she’s not that person. That’s not the vow she made. Regardless of what’s been done to her through a lifetime of broken vows, she chooses to keep her “til death do I part” vow.
It’s humbling to witness. And it crushes my soul at the same time. I can only imagine what it does to her. Even through the tears she allows me to see, I can only imagine the deluge she never lets anyone witness.
She cooks for him. She cleans him. Holds him. Watches television with him. When he recently told her that he was afraid to go to sleep because he was scared he may never wake up again, she told him, “If you don’t, you’ll go to sleep knowing that I love you.”
She teaches me grace. She teaches me how to serve. She again reminds me that marriage is not about the self. It’s always about the vow to serve.
Even after he departs this realm, she’ll be left to face the life his decisions have created for her. It reminds me of the responsibility of matrimony. Of unifying two lives so completely that one will always be responsible for the choices of the other, because that’s the vow the both of you made. You made the vow to no longer live as individuals but rather as an interwoven entity charged with figuring out life together. And if you’re going to bail on year 30, why get started with year one in the first place? Guess it’s a question every married couple has to face at some time.
BMWK, what was the moment when you finally understood what marriage was about?