By Steve McIlwain
A few weeks ago the company I work for had a big wrap party for some projects we recently finished. For these types of events they take the entire company to Las Vegas for a weekend and throw a big party to celebrate. Ash and I were excited to go and then boom: Ash got the flu. She was completely wiped out, and we stayed home so I could take care of her and she could recover.
Last week Ash and I were excited for our Valentine’s Day celebration. On Valentine’s Day we were going to have a romantic candlelight dinner at home, and over the weekend, we were heading to Temecula for a idyllic getaway and wine tasting. Then bang: I got the flu. I was totally immovable, and instead of our Valentine plans, Ash spent 4 straight days as part nurse and part caretaker.
In the moment of our other half being sick, Ash and I had a decision to make: would we remain frustrated and focused on missed plans, or would we concentrate on taking care of our spouse in need? It’s a tough one. On its own the selfless act of serving a sick spouse can be tiring, frustrating, and get old quick. Throw on top of that the fact that it’s causing you to miss out on some fun, once-a-year plans, and it can be a recipe for disaster.
Our situation was only a fairly short term bout with the flu. There are countless couples out there struggling with long-term disability, recurring cancer, and chronic disease. Week after week, year after year they are in the constant throes of a suffering, disadvantaged spouse. I can’t even begin to imagine the depth, strength, and intensity of that type of support. Yet through each of these situations, we are called to love and support our spouse. It is our duty, our obligation, and our calling. Marriage vows call out this topic specifically “through sickness and in health.”
A sick spouse is a distinct, unique opportunity to love them on a higher level. When they are fully vulnerable, reliant, weak, powerless, and helpless, you are their strength. You are their support. You are the tangible love they need. Even when they are chronically sick, perpetually weary, or continuously fatigued, you are their rock.
As for our little bout with sickness, we scrapped our wrap party and Valentine’s Day plans. Ash took amazing care of me. She got me all the foods I turn to when I’m not feeling well and made sure I was as comfortable as possible. Ash was bummed when we had to cancel our Valentine’s Day plans, but she fully embraced the chance to love and care for me when I needed her. When Ash was sick, I worked to get her all her sick foods and ensure that she had everything she needed. It was a bit of a bummer for me to miss our wrap party, but instead I had the opportunity to love and support the love of my life when she needed me.
When it comes down to it, our plans were really just made so we could do something fun together. Sure Vegas and wine tasting are better than being sick, but we always say that with the craziness of life we wish we had more time to simply do nothing. Being sick provided that opportunity, and although it was packaged a little differently than we thought, it was still a golden opportunity and we did our best to take advantage of it.
I’m not sure where your life lands on the sickness scale, but I do know that sickness presents an interesting opportunity in marriage. It allows one spouse to be completely open and vulnerable and the other spouse to fill that void with love, support, and sensitivity. I challenge you to view your spouse’s illness through those eyes. Resist the feelings of resentment, frustration, or coldness. Fight the urge to let them struggle on their own. Rather, embrace their sickness as a chance to love them more. Show them love when they need it most. Go above and beyond to ease their ailment, and use the situation as an opportunity to demonstrate profound love and admiration.