Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wedding Vows IV – In Sickness and In Health, Till Death Do Us Part

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14(NIV)

It nearly killed him, but he never complained. Caring for her was taking a physical and emotional toll that had begun to worry his family. We all thought it had potential to kill him, but she died more quickly than we thought she would. Perhaps that was her parting gift of love; to let go of life that he might live. It would have been like her to do something like that.

My father in-law’s love and dedication to Betty was remarkable. Sadly, many of their final years together were marred by her illnesses. Diabetes, heart disease, and all the associated symptoms of both conditions compromised her quality of life. She was clear that time was short, so they lived as if she might die any moment. Not a bad way to live when you think about it.

The deterioration of Betty’s health was sad. She had such a zest for life and such a strong desire to live. She loved traveling with Jack to places like Gettysburg for the history, and Nashville to Opryland Hotel. And she really loved holidays. I think of the parades around the farm of grandchildren on tricycles and in wagons waving flags to be patriotic; led by her, of course, in an Uncle Sam hat. But Christmas was her favorite. She prepared for it all year long by purchasing and hiding presents and planning for all the parties. We really miss her at Christmas.

Jack’s care for her was moving. There was no doubt about that man’s love and commitment to his vows to care for her. Like swans, they’d mated for life, and were inseparable. They raised a family of four children and 10 grandchildren, and left all with lots of good memories and assurance that they were loved. I think she held on to life as long as she did in order to see the grandchildren grow up a bit.

I’ll never forget the day we helped Jack transition Betty to hospice care. We met with a doctor and a nurse who explained that no more curative efforts would be offered. “That’s it then,” Jack quietly declared. “It’s time to go home.” How right he was. It was time for Betty to go home; to make the transition to a life where there would be no more pain and no more tears.

It was the spring of 1999 when Betty left us. A few days before her birthday, she was taken to back to the hospital for a final stay. Jill and I were greeted in the hall by her favorite pastor. His look said she’d departed. Jack was close behind. “She’s gone.”
We missed her final moments; a fact that bothered us at first. But upon reflection it seemed most appropriate that Jack and Betty would have a private goodbye.

Neither Jill nor I can listen to today’s resource without crying. Her parents’ story is one of youthful romance, zestful living, and commitment till death. I hope you’ll listen to the song and that it will not only move you as you reflect on the seasons of your own romance, but also steel you to love your partner through any health challenges – until death do you part.

Lord, because of you we don’t have to fear the mortality of our bodies. It is humbling to age and to witness aging. And there is nothing like sickness to humble us to our frailty and dependence on you. Thank you for models of commitment by partners who go through periods of sickness and show love until the end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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