Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian, wrote a letter to a young bride and groom in 1943 after exchanging their wedding vows that said in part, “it is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
Only a few years into our relationship I realized that our lives can twist and turn ugly at any moment. My life took a spiral downward and an aneurysm ruptured in my brain. I was warned by my Neurosurgeon that my beloved, “might bolt through the nearest exit and end your union.”
The doctor went on to quote sad statistics about brain injury patients whose relationships ended in divorce roughly 75% of the time. I recall thinking that this tidbit of information wasn’t expediting my healing but later I would come to realize that he was trying to soften the blow in the event that my mate chose to leave rather than suffer along with me.
I ended up enduring (two) brain surgeries, six weeks in the ICU and countless long and agonizing months of at-home recovery. My life and my romantic relationship took a brief hiatus while my body healed but my beloved stayed with me.
The road to recovery was very bumpy and the detours were numerous but my husband’s commitment to his vows “for better or worse” was steadfast. I wouldn’t realize at that time that the most romantic memory that we would share for many years would be birthed during such a valley in our lives. I would come to realize the depth of meaning in Bonhoeffer’s statement that “marriage sustains your love.”
As a result of my brain surgery and traumatic brain injury a part of my pituitary gland had slowed down resulting in a painfully slow hair re-growth after my head was shaved. I was bald for many months until the hair slowly grew back and when it did it was wiry and out of control. Coupled with the paralysis on my right side of my face and I was a sight for the (one) sore eye that was useful to me.
After fussing with the few strands of hair left on my head that refused to be tamed and frustrated with my appearance, I asked my husband the following,
“Do you think I should get a haircut?”
He sat besides me, took my face between his big, strong hands and said,
“You are asking the wrong guy. I loved you when you were bald.”
With that one statement my husband gave true meaning to,
“…to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
Our lives, in sickness and in health