I was sitting in my gown, talking with Mike as we waited for the surgeon to return. It was nice to have him with me. He sat there clutching my clothing as if it were a teddy bear.
“You can put that in the chair,” I suggested.
“Nah, it gives me comfort,” he said and smiled.
I grinned back. This might be nothing, but it also might be serious. All we had at the moment was each other.
“Do me a favor,” I said. “If this turns out to be serious and you find yourself on your own again, please don’t marry someone twenty or more years younger than yourself. That’s so cliché.”
He laughed. “Honey, I don’t have that kind of money.”
I gave him a look. “It’s not always about money. Just keep it in a ten year bracket.” We’ve witnessed several public mid-life crisis, seemingly always ending up in marriage to someone significantly younger. And while I honestly hope for the best for all involved (including, and possibly especially, for former spouses) it is often not a rosy picture after a few short years.
But the surgeon came back and our conversation was cut short. I was in this examining room because of a small lump in my left breast. Upon examination and looking at the x-ray, she said, “It’s very close to the surface and if you don’t want to wait I can take it out today. We can get it down to the lab right away for examination.”
We were little stunned and it took a moment to register. This was supposed to be a brief consultation and to schedule a biopsy. This was great news. “Let’s do it!”
So the lump is out and on the way to the lab.
We are thankful for this small mercy.
This week I was at my doctor’s office and the procedure there is to produce picture ID with your insurance info. I opened my wallet and there was no driver’s license. While it’s not the end of the world, it does produce a sinking feeling in your stomach. What did I do with it? When was the last time I saw it? Where could it be?
The rest of the day was spent in searching for the thing and as a result, months worth of things that needed my attention were addressed. I was not feeling any particular panic and I was feeling actual gratitude that this event was forcing me to take care of small projects or correspondences that were hanging over my head. Progress was definitely made, but the license was nowhere to be found.
For those who are religious, this story will probably be offensive. For those who do not know God, this story will not make sense. But for those who understand that God is relational, who is someone who likes to engage us in dialog I think you will share my enjoyment of his gentle humor.
My husband was praying this morning to find the license. He was asking God to help him help me find it. He heard a gentle voice in his spirit that said, “Dude, check your wallet.” Like a true son he said, “God, I’m in and out of my wallet all the time. If it were in there I would have seen it.” Again, a gentle nudge told him to check again.
And there it was. We had gone ziplining the week before and I had given him my ID for safekeeping. We’d both forgotten about it. It was a great way to start out our day.
Frozen water was everywhere. Another polar vortex had arrived turning November into January in one blast of frosty air.
Of course, I could not stay inside and keep warm sipping cocoa. My mother-in-law had been hospitalized and was being released that day…in a snow storm. I had been shoveling for four hours. First, to clear off the walks and steps, then to clear the front of the garage door, and then to dig out a path in the alley to get the car to the main street. The snow was wet and heavy and I was feeling my age.
But perseverance paid off. I broke through to the street. It was now time for a cup of tea and a breather. Time to try to pull myself together for the next part of the day. Getting Mom discharged, bundled up, into the car and back to her apartment. This time, I was leaving Dad at home. Dealing with dementia and a blizzard plus transporting Mom with an oxygen tank was too much for me and I had to draw the line somewhere. The left side of my back was starting to throb.
We could have transported Mom home in an ambulance, but she had gone into the hospital in her nightgown and I didn’t want her exposed to the extreme cold. She needed warm clothes and a warm ride. When I called to check on the discharge process, she was talking to someone from rehab, so I told her I’d be there in a couple hours and rang off. Experience told me that when leaving a hospital, it would take hours for every department to sign off so I didn’t hurry. As long as the nurses knew someone was coming everything would be good.
Sitting down with my cup of tea, I asked myself, why was I doing this? Why was I working so hard to make it to the hospital as the snow kept coming down? It had occurred to me as I was lifting that final heavy shovel full of snow that no one would do this for me. My husband would find a way to get me home, make no mistake, but he wouldn’t shovel out an alley to do it. I have no kids, nephews or nieces or even cousins that would do this on my account. My friends all have problems of their own and wouldn’t be able to expend themselves like this. I pondered on this as I sipped my tea.
John 15:13 (NASB) says, ‘Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.’ I had done this as a sacrificial act of love. While I love my mother-in-law, this was really for my husband. He’s been stretched as thin as I’ve ever seen him between long hours at work and caring for his parents, and though I’ve been doing a lot to help and I love them, too, I don’t have the same history or memories that he does and I’m not grieving the same way he is. This was a laying down of time and effort to show my husband he is not alone in his care journey for his parents and to bring him encouragement.
Sacrifice. It makes life richer. I should do it more often.
There are times I am amazed at the wonderful man I have for a husband. It’s not that I didn’t date good men when I was young and single, but because I didn’t have a good self-image, I would sabotage those relationships and end up obsessing over men who, frankly, were trouble.
But I did a wise thing in my youth. I prayed a very fervent and sincere prayer. Seeing many of my friends doing foolish and destructive things for ‘love’, I knew that on my own I would make the very same mistakes. So, I cried out to God not to let me settle for second best. In spite of my foolishness and willfulness, He honored that prayer; but I did not make it easy for Him.
Nonetheless, I ended up with a man who is kind and supportive beyond measure. He has been a studio assistant, a copy editor, a compassionate caregiver, a lifter and mover of heavy things and whatever else I’ve needed along the way. He cares for me, encourages me, he’s helped me care for my mother as she descended into Alzheimer’s and now he’s caring for his parents. Just this week, he took care of me as I went through some medical procedures, he cared for his dad as he had to relinquish his driver’s license, and in the middle of the night he cared for his mother’s geriatric cat who is diabetic and was in serious stress of an unknown infection – going to pick up the cat and his parents, taking them to the animal hospital, and caring for his mother as she had to leave her beloved pet for the night. Now he is making sure the cat lives another day by going over twice each day to get antibiotics down her throat, ointment into her eyes, and give her shots of insulin.
His sacrifices for love are monumental. I am truly blessed. I will leave you with this....
Sonnet by William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his
height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy
lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.