I think, when you’re standing in front of the preacher reciting your wedding vows, the words “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” come out so easily that you don’t fully understand the magnitude of your promise. Even if you mean them with your whole heart (and I did), they are just words on that day, because they have yet to be tested, because you can imagine nothing but perpetual sunshine and lollipops and rainbows in your marital future as you stare into your lover’s eyes.
There will be rainbows, true. Lots of rainbows.
But not without storms.
(That’s how rainbows work, see?)
I mean, when my husband proposed, I had a pretty good idea that married life was gonna be great. (And it totally has—he’s amazing.) But on that day nearly nine years ago when we made those vows, I pictured the rainbows. I could not fathom the storms.
In sickness and in health.
Those words are pretty easy to say when you’re both healthy.
My “sickness” has proven to be one of those storms. I hate being “in sickness,” especially when I feel like I’m “in health” 93% of the time. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I hate the “worse” parts of this whole epilepsy mess. It has been stressful and scary and uncertain and awful in so, so many ways. But it has done more to prove the strength of our vows than any rainbow ever could.
I’ve always said that I’m married to the nicest man in America. My husband has always been a caretaker: he helps little old ladies with their luggage at the airport. (I am not even making this up.) He blows out my grandma’s driveway when it snows. He recycles. He holds doors for people. He volunteers. It was his idea for us to get licensed as foster parents. He’s always been good to others. He always cares for those in need. It’s one of the things I most love about him.
I admire my husband’s caretaker ways, but, ironically enough, I have always idealized the virtue of self-sufficiency in my own life. I am independent to a fault—always have been—and I hate having to need anyone, even him. I just want to do everything by myself. My husband has always respected my independence, and I love him for it.
But I am finding out that maybe my independence wasn’t the virtue I once thought it was.
See, that thing within myself that I had always tried to repress because I found it so repulsive—my fragility, my need—awakened something beautiful within me: fragility and need.
I’m learning to be fragile; I’m learning to need. I’m learning to let him care for me, and it’s taking my breath away.
In the wake of my sickness, he’s been tender and gentle and attentive and supportive. He watches over me with the quiet vigilance and loyalty of a German shepherd. He drives me all over kingdom come without so much as a sigh of annoyance. He holds me when I’m frustrated and he listens when I rant. He’s been a perfect gentleman, and a perfect Eagle Scout, too. True to Boy Scout Law, he is “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” (Well, maybe not always all that clean, but he’s a farmer, so I think he gets a free pass on that one.)
But this is what those wedding vows are all about. This is what it means to take someone for better or worse, in sickness and in health. It’s what he has done for me: recognizing that fragility and need and meeting it with goodness and care. And, as I am learning, too, it’s about letting that goodness and care happen. It’s about receiving it, appreciating it, and returning it.
These storms have given my husband the chance to shelter me, to live out the vows that he made to me, and they have left me in breathless awe of his love for me. I don’t think I fully appreciated the magnitude of his goodness until he turned its rays on me.
And that’s a pretty darn good rainbow.
I’m so frustrated/pissed/sad/afraid right now.
I went nearly a year and a half without having a seizure, and then BOOM.
I had another seizure this week—a very unusual one.
I was hoping that wasn’t what it was, that it was just a brain fart or a daydream or a temporary lapse into insanity. But I just got off the phone with my doctor, and he said it sounded very much like a complex partial seizure, which was exactly what I didn’t want to hear. I was hoping he would indeed diagnose it as a brain fart or a daydream or even insanity. But he didn’t. Survey says: seizure.
When it happened, I was riding in the pickup with my husband, and we were holding hands and having a rather animated conversation about bodily functions when--
I don’t remember this happening, but according to hubby, I apparently started to wiggle my feet and itch my thumbs like crazy, and then I started babbling about how “the mermaids at the end of the driveway made me do it.”
Well, if they did make me do it, if they were the ones who made my brain go haywire, who overtook my mind, who made my thumbs so freaking itchy and my words come out all wrong, then—well, I wish those damn mermaids would knock it off already and leave me the hell alone.
Days seizure-free: 2.
It is incredible how a near-death experience can throw the landscape of your life into sharp relief.
Suddenly, the things that seemed SOSOSO important simply aren’t (and probably never were all that important in the first place), and the things taken for granted, the things that seemed so ordinary and mundane and even boring are seen for what they truly are: the most precious things in the world.
But isn’t that always the way it goes? Miracles have a way of changing your perspective.
I was the recipient of a miracle—there is simply no other explanation for it. The circumstances were too coincidental to be mere coincidence (if that even makes sense—but I’ve found that miracles seldom do).
I had a seizure while I was driving 70 miles per hour, and I managed to not only survive it, but to do so without crashing my car—I somehow managed to get myself into the median and slam my foot on the brake and keep it there, all while I was unconscious. And if that wasn’t miraculous enough, an ambulance was driving by at that exact moment, saw me, and called for backup, and my husband, who is a volunteer firefighter, just happened to hear a page for a vehicle “incident” (as it was termed) on the interstate and dropped everything he was doing to check it out, just in case it was me. He got to the scene just as the police did.
I remember none of this. I only remember waking up, super confused and covered in glass. (I didn’t wreck my car, but because my foot was on the brake, they couldn’t open the car door, so they had to break my window to get me out.) Eventually, my faculties returned to me, and I figured out what had happened.
My first emotion was terror: I was sitting in my car. I knew I’d had a seizure, which meant I’d been driving while unconscious. My second emotion was relief: I was alive. I hadn’t hurt anyone. My husband was near. The emotions that followed were a kaleidoscope: rage/devastation/despair/grief/frustration/acceptance/self-pity/annoyance, playing on a continuous loop.
I hate the way epilepsy renders me completely helpless. I hate the way it destroys my sense of control over my life. I hate being at the mercy of others during and following my episodes. It’s frustrating. It’s humiliating.
If I didn’t have epilepsy, I wouldn’t have needed that miracle.
But if I didn’t have epilepsy, I wouldn’t have gotten that miracle.
Miracles are bittersweet, aren’t they?
They are what we hope for. They are deliverance. They are grace and goodness and salvation itself. But the fact that we even need them at all speaks to the dire nature of our circumstances. We are so very fragile, and miracles remind us of that.
People don’t get miracles unless they need them. That’s the whole point.
I guess I just needed one.