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.