Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Love at the finish line

It usually begins with an attraction. An infatuation even. The desire to know another and to be known. And left to continue on this path, usually culminates in a ceremony.

The middle is filled with jobs, mortgages, children, bills, packed schedules...and infatuation gives way to real life. Lots of people don't make it through this point, eager as they are to remain in the highs of emotional entanglement. Here is where real love takes root, and
you realize you have a stalwart partner with whom to navigate the bends and twists of life.

The end? Well, the end is an entirely different proposition....

I had the privilege, while working in home health care, of taking care of a couple that had been married for 60+ years. He was terminal with bone and lung cancer. She was showing early signs of dementia, but was otherwise physically healthy. When I first was assigned the case, it was to take care of the Mrs. while her husband was in the hospital undergoing tests to determine the cause of his pain. I was there to make sure she didn't burn the house down or get lost since her thoughts were something hard to hold on to these days. He came home from the hospital with singular focus, knowing he did not have long. He wanted to make sure that his beloved wife was taken care of, placed in a facility where she would have access to round-the-clock care, where his money would be enough to pave the last miles of her life.

After witnessing improvement in his pain level over a couple of weeks, I was surprised to show up for my shift one day and find him regressing. As it turns out, he had taken himself off his heavy narcotic pain relievers because he felt they were clouding his ability to make decisions concerning his wife's future care. Without his meds, just getting up to go the bathroom left him in excruciating pain. Amidst the hideous, unfair nature of his pain, I was so struck by the beauty of his sacrifice.

Whenever the pain became so great that he thought he was at the end, he would ask me to get his wife so he could sit in the silence and hold her hand.
No need to speak. They had fit in all their speaking and now they sat confident, knowing nothing had been left unsaid. Nothing left. Just the two of them. Pretty is gone. Busy is gone. Time races to the finish line. And you are left with whatever foundation you built it all on.

We are inundated with images of candlelight dinners and swooning hearts, but love is often it's most beautiful in the darkness. We of course see our first and most potent example of this kind of love through Jesus. Only God would birth salvation and love in the hideousness of the cross. It reminds me of a favorite song of mine from the late Rich Mullins:

"...And it's Wally and the Beaver, David and Jonathan
It's the love of Jesus puttin' on flesh and bone
And we both feel lost
But I remember what Susan said
How love is found in the things we've given up
More than in the things we have kept..."

Mr. passed away in December, right after he had finalized details for his wife. They moved into a facility together and then he was gone. I knew he would be. I knew he was only hanging on for her in the first place...



Ruby Red Slippers said...

This has me in tears...so sweet-and that is just a small word for something so amazing-
I loved hearing their story through your eyes...
I swear, that could be my parents one day-

Trudy said...

This is beautiful! I will remember this story--and the way you have brought it home to us--forever. My grandparents are already living examples of this and I pray to follow in their footsteps.

Becca said...

I read this to Heath today.. Barely finished reading it because I was crying! It sure is amazing to think that that kind of love had those bad bad days in the middle stages... but it sure give hope that it will... I loved that u shared this!