In Sickness and In Health

For the last week, my future sister-in-law (H’s sister) has been very sick.  I haven’t gotten an update since this morning, but last I heard, she had some form of bilateral pneumonia, and has been in the hospital since Tuesday or Wednesday.  Yeah, it wasn’t good, although she is thankfully finally improving.

Through all of this, H has been my liaison to the world of sickness.  I have never in my life realized how healthy I’ve been.  It’s incredible actually—I was rarely sick, and never severely sick; none of my close friends ever were either, to my knowledge.  But then there’s H.  His childhood was a series of hospital visits for allergic reactions, asthma, pneumonia, ear infections—things I didn’t even realize happened to children.  My sister and I were incredibly healthy kids.  We could play in leaf piles and eat baked goods without asking any questions.

Not to say that H is sickly or anything.  He’s a healthy guy, now.  But his lungs have never quite been up to snuff.  He was a premature baby, for one thing.  But that doesn’t account for all of it, because his sister and brother also have asthma and allergies and a host of things that I have no experience with.

It made me realize something.  I haven’t known anyone who has gone to the hospital (unless it was for routine surgery, or an immediate injury, or a birth) who hasn’t been sick enough to die.  Cancer, mostly.  Lots of people in my life have gotten cancer.  My aunt died almost twelve years ago, after a long battle with cancer.  And my great-grandfather died after complications with diabetes, after the lower half of one of his legs was amputated.  Hospitals are sad.  I hate them.  So, when H told me his sister was taken there, and that it was a good thing, I wasn’t sure what to do.  Or what to think.  Or… anything really.  I couldn’t figure it out, in my brain.

That was several days ago.  Honestly, I’m still not really sure what to do, or what to think.  Helpless, I think is the word I’ve been searching for.  I’m feeling helpless.  I can’t reconcile the happy, smiling, sister of my fiancé that I’ve always known with this person who can’t breathe without oxygen, who had her lungs manually cleaned out today.  It doesn’t make sense in my brain.

It has led me to think long and hard about the vows that H and I are going to take in nine months.  We are going to promise to love each other, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.  But I don’t know sickness.  I can’t relate to sickness.  And being unable to relate to something makes me come off like Sheldon Cooper.  Insensitive.  Unemotional.  Apathetic.  I’m not.  I care so deeply about people, but I don’t know how to handle sickness.

For my entire life, I’ve been taking my health for granted.  I didn’t realize what I had, how lucky I’d been.  I can see a little bit more of the other side now.  And I need to be humbled.  I really need to be humbled.

November is the month for being thankful.  It’s going to be a very busy month for me, so I want to make sure that I make this very clear from the beginning.  I am very thankful for my life, for my health, and for all of the privileges in my life.  I am thankful for the love in my life.  I’m thankful for H, and for my family.  And I’m thankful for each morning that I wake up, for each sunrise, for each Ole kiss and each homework assignment.  Because I’ve been lucky, and I haven’t realized it.  I haven’t appreciated it like I should have.

And I am thankful for getting the chance, nine months from now, to promise to love someone in sickness and in health.  Because there will be sickness.  There is always eventually sickness.  And I will be presented with an opportunity to selflessly love someone whom I can’t fix.  Because that’s what marriage is.  It’s a partnership, a doubles game, a companionship.  It’s not about fixing someone.  It’s about being next to someone when he needs you, about holding his hand when he can’t catch his breath, about putting your faith in medicine and in God when you have nothing else to give.

I’m not good at giving up the reigns.  It’s always been a weakness of mine, needing that sense of control.  Sickness is the universal humbler.  Sickness is a time when God shows that He can teach two simultaneous lessons:  a) He never gives you more than you can handle, and b) He is the one in control.

I’m a lucky girl to get to spend my life with H, someone who is constantly challenging me to learn and to grow.  He didn’t get quite so lucky, because I’m a newbie when it comes to sickness.  I might not react properly at first.  I never react properly at first.

Regardless, I promise to love him, in sickness and in health, for the rest of the time that God gives us.  It’s the greatest gift I can give to him, and receive in return.  Because it proves that love truly is a partnership between equals, as sickness is the great equalizer.

Please keep H’s sister in your thoughts and prayers as she continues to recover from her sickness.  It is always appreciated, and I will pass along everything to her.



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