We met and married before chronic illness was noticeably affecting my life. I was an athlete and so were you. We bonded over our mutual love for all things athletic, traveling, and our faith in God. It was early in our relationship that I found out you could beat me in ping pong, which caused both anger and relief. We had a happy marriage when we were both healthy, but our relationship grew deeper after the diagnoses, surgeries, and pain that changed our lives forever. But, let’s hold that thought for a moment.
I remember our first argument about a month into our relationship. I was going to cook for you and the meal I made turned out comically gross. My whole apartment smelled like broccoli and burnt beef for a week afterwards. I started crying and felt a mixture of failure and embarrassment. You looked at me and said, “I’m not in this just for the good times. I want it all with you.” You had no idea what you would be called on to do in the next several years when you made that statement.
I will always treasure our first two years of marriage, living in our tiny, one-bedroom apartment. I will always consider those the “trust-building” years, in which we learned that being different from each other doesn’t make either of us wrong. We traveled, were both working in rewarding careers, and played in a few dorky adult sports leagues. I started recognizing you as a stable force in my life, steady and forgiving, patient and kind.
In the next few years, we realized that several of my diagnoses were chronic and debilitating. Slowly, but surely, you had to take on more responsibilities to keep our household going. You never complained and quite oppositely, would scold me if you sensed me overdoing it.
You didn’t marry an ill woman, and I have had to battle guilt that you inherited someone you didn’t sign up for. Guilt has led to disappointment, and disappointment to depression at times. I can’t do most of the things I used to be able to do without intense pain. Countless times, I have lashed out at you when my pain is out of control. You aren’t perfect, but more often than not, you lay next to me, hold me while I cry, and pray over my broken spirit. You have showed me a level of grace that has helped me understand God so much better than before you entered my life. Before you, I struggled with the concept of grace, especially in regards to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. But I see the way you sacrifice and extend grace to me throughout our bizarrely painful journey, and you pull me closer to you and Jesus.
Though chronic pain has caused me to need grace now and again, I have also found that illness has caused me to grow in several ways that I may not have otherwise. I have learned that I still have a lot to offer, not in spite of, but because of my illness and pain. Because I have had to receive grace, I am much better at giving it. Because I struggle with self-worth due to my new limitations, I will always offer encouragement to you. Because I live with such horrible pain, I am very sensitive to your discomfort and the discomfort of friends and family. I am more patient (there really was nowhere to go but up in this category). I am better at asking for what I need, instead of expecting you to read my mind. I am slowly learning to place my identity in how God views me, instead of judging myself through the lens of what I can or can’t accomplish.
In conclusion, I guess the main thing I want to say to you, my husband, is thank you. Thank you for taking your vows seriously when you said, “in sickness and in health.” Thank you for fighting for me. Thank you for making my life incredibly rich, in spite of illness and pain. I will always strive to deserve you, and couldn’t imagine this journey with anyone else.
Love always, your wife