Today is my anniversary. It’s not mine and Lisa’s wedding anniversary, but in so many ways it is still a very significant anniversary for us as a couple. You see, as of today, February 18, 2013, it has been 3 years since I have smelled or tasted anything. Three years ago, February 18, 2010 was the day I decided to go to a men’s basketball night at the gym at my church. Before the night was over, I was in the hospital from a severe head injury. I have no memory of what exactly happened and how I came to be injured that night. (From what others told me and the medical evidence, I forcefully slammed head-first into a bricko-block wall, and suffered a traumatic brain injury.) As a result I was bed-ridden for eleven days. And now, three years later, I still have less than an hour of collective memory from those eleven days.
My wife later shared some interesting accounts of what happened during that time. While I do not remember much of anything, my wife clearly remembers how my head injury completely reoriented her world. The most significant change was a fundamental shift in my personality. According to my wife, I was completely out-of-my-head crazy and I became “very, very mean.” She said I spoke harshly and critically when I spoke at all, yelling at her and snapping at our children. The reality of how different I was during those days sank in when Lisa later shared with me that she feared our oldest daughter Chloe would be the only one who would remember “how Daddy really was.”
As the days slowly ticked by and Lisa didn't see any notable changes in my condition, she started to brace herself for the reality that she was going to have to care for an ornery, inconsiderate, bed-ridden husband for the rest of her life. For a short period, she was trapped with only memories of what life was before and evaporating dreams of what life should have been.
Through constant prayer and by the grace of God, I've had a nearly full recovery from the injury. While I still haven’t regained any memories from the two days in the hospital and the following nine days at home, the only long term effects of my head injury is the permanent loss of my senses of smell and taste. I don’t like it. Not being able to smell or taste is depressing and problematic. But, given many of the other possible outcomes, I’ll take it. (On a side note, Lisa and I are forever grateful to so many in our spiritual family who helped us out during those days, praying for me, caring for our kids, and helping Lisa when needed.)
So, why am I sharing this story with you? “In sickness and in health, till death do we part” has a whole new meaning for me. Lisa was prepared to honor her vow and tend to a mentally-incapacitated husband for the rest of her life. Thankfully, she didn't have to go through a severely long drawn-out incident or have to figure out the logistics of coping with a spouse's prolonged illness. But “in sickness and in health” can happen as quickly as a split second car crash that causes a permanent physical or mental handicap, or as slowly as a progressive disease that daily robs your mate of their mental or physical acuity, or from a unforeseen life event that indelibly scars your spouse’s body and/or psyche for life.
“In sickness and in health, till death do we part” is one of the most difficult promises a couple makes, because on their wedding day many couples often don’t fully recognize exactly what that can encompass. But “in sickness and in health, till death do we part” when fully lived out should give a couple the greatest sense of security in knowing that you and your mate truly are “one flesh” and you will be loved and cared for no matter what. I know Lisa proved it to me, and for that I will forever thank God for giving her to me to be my bride.
(And for those of you who are living in the middle of “in sickness,” please accept the help of other family members, neighbors, and especially your spiritual family. To accept help is not to abandon or betray your mate. It is allowing your community of faith to live out their calling in the Kingdom of God. May God bless us all to enjoy the “in health” as long and often as possible, and give us the grace to walk with our mate through any sickness.)