Part of your life

Jeff and I spent Thanksgiving, our shared birthday, and most of December, 2014  at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

Jeff and I spent Thanksgiving, our shared birthday, and most of December, 2013
at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

“Trouble is part of your life, and if you don’t share it, you don’t give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough.”Dinah Shore

Jeff is a pretty tough guy.  In more than 25 years of Air Force service, I don’t recall him ever taking a single sick day until he was diagnosed with cancer in late 2012.  Sometimes I think that the physical suffering he has endured, as mind-boggling as it has been, is less burdensome to him than the psychological need to be well and working and taking care of everyone else.

As crazy as it will sound to people who haven’t been through something like this themselves, there have been many special moments in the past two years, even in the hardest of times.  I am thankful for every minute we have been able to be together through everything, thankful I could sleep in his hospital room and be with him at home as he recovered from surgery and sit through chemotherapy sessions and doctor’s appointments.  In many ways, I feel closer to him than ever before because of what he has shared with me.

Sometimes one of the best ways to defeat despair is to allow others to walk with us through pain or sorrow.  It doesn’t come naturally for most of us, in a world that is often shallow and uncomfortable with the less appealing truths about the universal human condition.  But masking grief and suffering only makes it worse.

If you are struggling with trouble of any sort, I hope you will be willing to talk openly about it with a kind and trustworthy loved one.  None of us wishes illness or grief on anyone, least of all those we love dearly, but it is a privilege to walk beside someone who needs our companionship and values our support.  May we all have the heart to give and receive this very special form of love.

 

24 Comments

  1. Ann

    Well said, thank you.

    • Thank you, Ann! I appreciate your being here.

  2. Julia this touched me so much this morning! You hit the nail on the head once again. I pray Jeff and Matt are well and you are well too. I think of all of you often and you are in my prayers. Have a beautiful day! Cherie

    • Thank you Cherie. I knew you would understand this post. I keep you and Ron in my prayers also. I hope your week is full of blessings!

  3. Carolyn

    Your blog brought tears to my eyes. You know how to put great thought on paper. Julia, you and Terry have something in common, you were there for two sick pesple when they needed you . I don’t know how we could have made it without the love and support. Thanks for all the prayers that went up for me, even now, and ours are still going up for Jeff. Love and hugs to all.

    • Thank you Carolyn! Your cheerful and strong spirit has been a source of encouragement to us, not to mention how wonderful you looked when we saw you recently. I know you and Terry have been grateful, as Jeff and I have been, to have excellent health care and not worry about how to pay for all these treatments, which are bad enough quite aside from the costs. We are keeping you in prayer and counting down to the five-year mark! Love to you and Terry.

  4. You are a beautiful soul, Julia. Thank your for sharing with all of us the joy, sorrow, challenge and grief that move us through life’s challenges. It’s so true: people avoid talking to you when someone has died or pretend not to notice a sudden disability. It’s painful. Someone once told me that they didn’t want to mention (fill in the blank) because they didn’t want the other person to feel bad or they were afraid they would ‘make them cry.’ I always encourage people to talk about things. Crying is good for the soul, grief and loss are all part of life, but we’ve learned to hide how we feel. It comes at great cost.

    I love your version of defeating despair.

    • Thank you, Alys. One of the nicest things a friend or loved one can do for us is to cry with us. I can think of two different times, years ago, when I was truly heartbroken and called to share my bad news (once with my friend Amy, and once with my mother). I will never forget how, in both cases, they had nothing much to say, they just broke into sobs and wept with me over the phone. When someone we love is hurting, it helps to know that others care about them and are hurting for them too. I sympathize with people who struggle to know what to say, as I often do myself, but I have learned that it’s better to fumble for the right words than to turn away in fear or inhibition. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement.

  5. Sheila

    A very tender, personal blog that reflects a deep love with so much sincere caring. I would say this is one of my favorites ever! Thank you for sharing such heartfelt words! Love, Sheila

    • Thank you Sheila! I so appreciate your steadfast support and presence. ❤

  6. Very valuable post, Julia.
    Unlike, too many today, you and Jeff have not only recited your marriage vows, but have lived them. Too many simply recite them and forgot them as soon as they leave the alter.
    -Alan

    • Thank you Alan. It’s a funny thing about marriage vows; no matter how seriously we take them, there is no way to prepare ourselves for what might lie ahead. We just have to go on faith and comittment. When we married, our minister gave us a printed out text of his marriage ceremony for us, which included vows we had written ourselves and Bible verses we had helped him to choose to individualize the ceremony. Just before the wedding he gave us the script and encouraged us to read it again and again over the years, to remind us of what we had promised each other. I still have it to this day.

      • Sheila Balls

        What wise thing for a minister to do! My husband Carl has just gone into longterm care after fifteen years of decline with no treatment possible. Sometimes he says to me “we have no marriage left”. I struggle with how to answer that, knowing he is thinking of how we cannot live together now, but I also know we are defined not by WHERE we are, but by WHO we are. For our fortieth anniversary I took Paul Simon’s song Still Crazy After All These Years, and I wrote new words for Carl: Still Married After All These Years.

        • Sheila, I am so touched to read of your situation with your husband. I agree with you, marriage is above and beyond the sorts of details that we normally use to define it. I think most men feel helpless when they are unable to be the strong guy taking care of everything. They don’t realize, perhaps, that their value to us goes far deeper than anything they are or were able to do for us. I love your version of Paul Simon’s song! My parents just celebrated their 65th anniversary last year, and though they are now quite limited in what they are able to do (compared to how they were accustomed to living) I feel that just having them together and both here with us is a wonderful gift as well as a great example. Perhaps in his happier moments, Carl is able to realize the same, that his presence on earth is a blessing to you. Thanks for sharing your story with us!

      • True, Julia. No one can predict what will happen along the way in life. It tries the emotions of the best of us. Yet if we understand that love is based on an act of will and not emotion, those trials will not compromise that love. Marriage that is seen as sacred and a commitment will find the bond between husband and wife only grow stronger with each passing trial.
        I know this from witnessing the bond between my mom and dad. And wrote of it in the 1st volume of Contagious Optimsm.
        Your anniversary practice should be the rule and not the exception.
        -Alan

        • Thank you Alan. Your parents’ devotion is a gift that has and will keep on giving to you and all who knew them. I am so grateful for the example of my parents and so many of our friends, whose devotion to each other has lasted a lifetime, and even beyond that, for some of the widows and widowers who chose never to remarry after their spouse died. When Jeff and I were engaged, I worked with a beautiful retired lady who was the mother of thirteen children; her husband (their father) had been the police chief of a large city, and he died of a heart attack many years before I ever knew her. I once overheard her saying to another friend of hers, “The one thing people told me that was not true, is that it would get easier over time, that I would miss him less as the years went by. That has simply not been true for me. It has never gotten easier.” She was a jovial, happy woman who was lots of fun to be with, my favorite co-worker, but even so I could always tell she missed her husband deeply every single day. Jeff and I were honored to have her at our wedding. I have thought of her words many times in the past two years.

  7. I hope he has gotten some relief and is by now doing better…Hope and faith, may they flourish in your home and hearts.

    • Thank you, Cynthia. These past few months have been a time of respite, as Jeff has been between treatments, having reached the point where his body could no longer tolerate the chemotherapy. I do feel that hope and faith have been our foundation all this time. Thanks so much for your kind words and warm wishes!

  8. HarryS

    Is there much difference between unity and intimacy?
    Can they be wrenched apart?

    • Wow, that’s a great question, Harry — and one I have never really considered. I would say that unity will lead to intimacy, provided it is strong enough to withstand the assaults of busyness, competing demands and other challenges that may seem to wrench them apart at times. Interestingly, this relationship between unity and intimacy is as true of groups (families, churches, communities) as it is of couples. It may also contain a clue as to why there is so much polarization and discord in society. We don’t spend the time needed with each other, working together, to feel that bond that can only come from shared goals and values.

  9. Having weathered this storm together, you two can attest to something so special and unique the rest of us, hopefully, will not have to walk through. Seems the human spirit, when tested to the brink, can endure the unimaginable. It’s the kind of strength and resilience we all hope we find in times of need. I’m comforted to know I have a good partner in life, it hasn’t always been the case (as you know). It’s the pits when you hear of situations that when one gets ill the other abandons them. I’ve heard of that happening and it boggles my mind. Some I guess think it should all be ‘sunshine and roses’ 7/24. Maybe they were to coddled as a youngster? I admire women who raise caring men, loving fathers. A man who’s strong enough to cry ‘with’ you, if that’s what unfolds. Thank heavens for them. xoxo K

    • K, I totally agree. I have met so many mothers of children with disabilities who tell me that the kid’s father hit the road when the disabilities became known. Fortunately many of them were blessed by loving stepfathers eventually, but still…seems so harsh to have such a conditional relationship. I think if the love is there, it only grows stronger in adversity, though the stress level can get unbearable at times and cause lots of grouchiness and friction. But Jeff’s illness has made me hold onto him more tightly than ever. Being around hospitals so much, not just the past 30 months but the past 30 years (with Matt) has shown me the remarkable strength people can have in the face of hardship. Jeff’s having spent so many weeks on the Wounded Warrior floor at Walter Reed has furnished us with lots of inspiration. Some of our soldiers have survived catastrophic injuries under seemingly impossible odds, and done so with grace and courage.

  10. Susie

    Hi Julia, love to read your blog, it was very encouraging and spirit lifting. Weve been throught our own struggle in life. I found your blog when my life was at the lowest point. Love Susi from Malaysia

    • Thank you, Susi! I am so happy to know you are reading the blog. I hope you will join us here often. Thanks for your comment and letting me know you are with us!

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