With seven children and 27 grandchildren, Ed and I had traveled a long road in our marriage–the wonderful times, the struggling times and the difficult times. We even had the good fortune to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. In recent years, however, several diseases had left Ed in much pain and confined to a wheelchair.
One day, as I was folding clothes, I confronted Ed on whether he had taken his shot for the severe osteoporosis that debilitated him. Ed responded with “NAG, NAG, NAG…that’s all you do anymore. I want a divorce!” I was stunned. Upon gaining my composure, I reflected on how much we had been through with his lung cancer, osteoporosis, kidney failure, diverticulitis, hernia, congestive heart failure, quadruple heart by-pass…….
I walked over and sat by his wheelchair. I knew he was trying to stay on top of all of this disease that was taking so much of his energy and “fight”. Sensing his growing frustration, I asked him, “If you want a divorce, I will give it to you, but you must first tell me where you will be going to live–maybe one of our children? I am not going anywhere. I am staying here and don’t intend to leave.”
I took Ed’s feelings seriously, offering him respect and a chance to vent. I had to look beyond the words (no matter how difficult) and really hear what his heart was saying to me. In response, Ed admitted that he was feeling like a burden to me and the family. He was struggling desperately to stay alive. Three weeks later, Ed died.
I think it’s important not just to look at situations as they appear to be, but to look beyond what is happening and go to the heart of the message. I’m so grateful I didn’t overreact or respond with sarcasm, or tell Ed how silly he was being. When you learn to see the heart of the most important person in your life, with whom you have shared marriage and a family, then you understand that marriage is more than a commitment or a vocation. It’s a sacrament.