Sunday, June 28, 2015

Intimacy, Tenderness, & Bedrails

Dear John,
 
I gave today to fibro. Or, to healing this fibro flare. In other words, to doing none of what I needed to do. I knitted one sock and cuddled with the animals. Ta-da!
 
I ran across this, and I saved it because it is so true. Not only did you not divorce me, which the great majority of husbands do after a fibromyalgia diagnosis. You helped me live with it, but never treated me like I was a different person than I was before. As you always did, you helped but never hovered. You allowed me to do what I was able to do and understood when I wasn't able.  And whatever I couldn't do, you picked up.
 
It never crossed my mind that you'd do otherwise. We, not without opposition, said the old-fashioned wedding vows. And we both took them very seriously. We did joke about the "sickness and health" part, wondering just when the "health" portion was coming. But we were both deeply committed to those vows and to each other. I suppose the "health" part will come, but not in this life.
 
We took turns acting on that vow, didn't we? I went into marriage knowing that you'd already had cancer; you went in knowing that anything can happen to anyone at any time. And we did have some events! You had two heart surgeries, brain surgery, and two more rounds of cancer, and died from the accumulated heart damage caused by the radiation you received when you were nineteen. I ended up with asthma and fibromyalgia, and on the way had gram-negative sepsis, the head injury in the car accident, and a case of left trigeminal shingles so severe that I wasn't expected to live.
 
In fact, we should both have been dead long ago. Maybe we're just stubborn. We certainly weren't allowed to ignore our mortality. And we were each given many opportunities enact love by caring for the other. We did our time in hospitals, alternating sides of the bedrail. There is great tenderness and intimacy in those times. Neither of us ever doubted the other would be there and neither ever took the other's care for granted. Those hard times were special. The memories are more intense, somehow, than the rest, and very dear to me.
 
We were blessed. The struggles helped us pack more love into a short period of time. We left no words unsaid, no act of love undone. We kept our promise. Caring for each other was a sacred thing, a supreme act of love. That's why I did your postmortem care, to the dismay of your nurses; it was the last act of love I could give you, the last physical intimacy and tenderness.
 
I do look forward to the "health" portion! I know you are healed and whole now, no more pain or illness, no more struggles. I'm still in this body, still chronically ill, awaiting my release. One day we'll be healed and whole together. What a day it will be!
 
Love you more than life,
Joan.

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