These are a very important part of the vows I took with my husband, and for the past couple of months we have been exploring the limits of what that means in our relationship. You typically recite these words during the ceremony and they sound loving and sincere, but you often do not realize the impact they will have when they are forced into action.
My Father in law was diagnosed with a rare type of Cancer this past year, and so far, our 2019 has not been anything we’d expected. I have watched, alongside my husband and his family, my Father in law slip into a shadowy version of his former self as the sickness has taken hold. And now, in the darkest days, this segment of the vows continually plays over in my head. I think about the meaning this promise holds not only for our relationship, but that of his parents as I am witnessing his mother come to terms with her role in all of this, lending her strength and faith to her husband, as she is living this vow in real time.
Last year on this day, my Father in law was healthy, active and enjoying all the things he loved. He is the strong silent type, but also has no problem telling you what he really thinks! He is tough, but is always a sucker for his grand-kids, even though he really looked forward to his “quiet time”. As I have become a part of this family I became attached to him in my own way. I found that there were many qualities about him that I admire and ones that I was able to relate to. And when we were having what may very well be the last grandchild on this side of the family, I was so excited to let him know it was a boy and that the family name will continue to live on! He was just as glad for us when we found out we were expecting and when we brought our baby home. And like all the grand-kids that came before him, my son knew that Grandpa was going to be his buddy! You see, he is infections in a quiet and mild way, and you are left feeling like you must have known him from another time because without saying too much he just gives you that peace with his presence. You can sit down with him at the kitchen table, have a coffee and a biscotti, have the smallest conversation and be completely satisfied with knowing that you’re experiencing his true essence. It’s a simple, understated bond that I had developed with him and just a simple look and I could tell what he thought about something without him saying so.
Here we are now, in the most difficult two months that my husband and I have ever faced as a couple. And here I am watching my husband struggle to cope with this heartbreaking version of his Dad. I have watched my husband rise to the occasion time and time again, along with his other siblings, to rally around this man as this dark cloud was looming. I have seen my husbands strength and restraint in the hardest days during this ongoing battle his Dad is facing, and I am eternally amazed and humbled. I have heard him speak so poignantly but with such an echo of wisdom and bravery in the face of calamity. And after days and weeks of mental exhaustion and emotional overload he still comes home to give us his best.
I am left wondering if I am doing all that I can as a wife and partner to live out this vow. Am I fulfilling my obligation and promise to him as he experiences the most monumental change in life as he knew it? And I hope so. I have started to implement changes in our lives by adding or removing little things for now to help ease the burden. I have made sure that certain routines continue so that there is a sense of normalcy amid the fogginess. I have been suggesting opportunities for rest or diversion. I have done my best to give him my bravery too by being an anchor when he needs that. I have made myself available to listen more and have tried to hold him in a grounded version of reality. All of these things are my expression of devotion and love for my husband and I want to be personifying what that vow means at this difficult moment.
As I have been typing this I began thinking that this is even more than just a fulfillment of a vow, but a very real and fluid scenario that will adapt and change with the progression of his Cancer. And there are many people out there battling all kinds of demons and grief and darkness in their lives and relationships. Everyone will experience these things, and they change us. They break us down and mold us into something similar to what we were before the experience, yet slightly different. And we walk around looking the same on the outside, for the most part, but inside we are never the same again. And having someone to uphold this vow, or a vow of friendship or support, makes all the difference on the days when the Cancer [or gloom] wins out and leaves you feeling breathless and defeated. It is so important to help your loved ones through this period of time, especially if you have experienced it before and can act as their guide. It is important to acknowledge the promise to never give up even when things get tough.
If you have a spouse or someone in your life who you would like to extend an olive branch to in times of trouble, please use the link below as an example: