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I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Marriage is for a lifetime

I have been struggling for four days to figure out how to write a post on this article without sounding harsh and judgmental. I have finally given up and will just have my say. The title of the article is:


A family learns the true meaning of the vow ‘in sickness and in health’


The thing is, I don’t think they learned the true meaning at all. The gist of the story is that at age 46, Robert Melton suffered a stroke and a heart attack. His brain suffered from lack of oxygen but he survived. He was conscious and conversant but had some mental disabilities. He had an incomplete memory of his family but did eventually remember his wife and daughters. He needed a very structured environment so he was placed in an assisted living facility. The family had a healthy and happy routine of visiting every Saturday, while Page also visited a few days during the week. Then Page reconnects with an old friend, Allan, who is getting divorced. They hit it off and develop a relationship. They even include Robert in the relationship by visiting him together. The next thing you know this old friend is proposing marriage and Page is accepting. Of course, there is this problem that she is still married to Robert. So she divorces Robert, marries Allan, moves the whole family to St. Louis, and moves Robert to a new assisted living center in St. Louis. He is part of their “blended family”.


I am sure it was devastating for Page to find, that as a relatively young woman, her life would not take the fairytale path of marriage, two kids, and happily-ever-after. But that disappointment does not justify her abandoning her marriage vows. She married Robert “in sickness and in health as long as we both shall live”. The vows do not say “in sickness—but not too sick”.


I feel for Page. I really do. But what does it say about our culture’s view of marriage when the Washington Post holds up this story as something noble and wonderful? Is marriage really so plastic that we can mold it into anything that gives us earthly pleasure?


This view is so selfish. Marriage is not about me, but about total self-giving of myself to my spouse. It is a vocation. It is a calling to serve God as a couple in whatever manner God has chosen for us. In sickness and in health. In times of wealth and times of poverty. During times of joy and during times of sadness.


Perhaps this story hit me so hard because I had the rug pulled out from under me over the last couple of years. My husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. I have endured the physical pain, the chemotherapy, and the uncertainty with him ever since.  I’ve spent hours on my knees scrubbing the bathroom floor grout to keep our house as antiseptic as possible when the chemotherapy left him susceptible to infection. I have spent even more hours on my knees in prayer.


So I guess there is part of me that feels really angry that the Washington Post says my sacrifice is meaningless and totally unnecessary. I could just go find someone else who will give me an easier life as long as I remain kind and supportive to my current husband.  But I don’t serve the Washington Post. I serve God. This is not how I envisioned our retirement years. Yet this is what God has offered us. And I say “yes”. I say “fiat!” I say “Thy will be done.” That is the true meaning of "in sickness and in health."


Life isn’t always fair and bad things happen. But every challenge is an opportunity for virtue. It is an opportunity to grow in holiness. God did not make us for happiness on this earth. He made us for happiness in Heaven.


Charles Lembcke said...

That last paragraph was excellent. As you well know, our suffering can be redemptive if we allow it to be. Keep scrubbing those floors, Dr. Hunnell. You're not only helping your husband, you're probably scrubbing some souls right out of purgatory.

God bless. Please keep writing.

Jen said...

I love these two lines. "But every challenge is an opportunity for virtue. It is an opportunity to grow in holiness." You hit the nail on the head. My husband is type one diabetic and he's never been a great diabetic. I have a sister that always comments what will I do when he is blind and legless someday. I will love him with all my heart. I have to wonder for that woman's children. She is only showing them things are disposable in this world, even people...