My father battled cancer for more than a year and a half. My mother supported him and helped him daily during that time. She was never far away, and always prepared to assist him. During his final week, I watched my mother continuously, and how she cared for the man she loved. My father rested in a hospital bed situated next to a large picture window in their living room. He needed oxygen, and the cantraption can be a bit confusing to figure out how to use it correctly. My mother put it on his head one way, but it didn’t fit correctly. His breathing was labored, and she continued trying it one way and then another. She was determined to get it right. She made a joke about it, and then got it turned about properly, so that it fit into his nose and around his ears. She patted him on the chest and asked if that was better. He grunted affirmingly.
My father was too weak to move. She would have to change his position in bed. He could not go to the bathroom, so she would change his Depends. She would wash him. She would remove the grit from his eyes, that could barely see at all. When he was afraid, and made a gruff comment about what was happening, she would console him with her voice and her words that everything was okay. She would grab a rag to remove the mucous that came up out of his lungs. She would joke with him, ask him questions, check on how he was feeling, and she would feed him. She kept jello in the refrigerator because it would bring a small comfort and help to cool the burning radiation sores in his mouth. She mixed a pill in apple sauce so he could swallow it better. And she would always stay alert to his breathing, watching to see if his chest would rise and fall. She was the representation of Christ’s mercy. The epitome of tireless love in action.
My father could do nothing to repay her for her attentiveness and her assistance. He could barely speak (and mostly did not), and was hardly conscious or alert most of the time. She did those things for him, with no praises or accolades, out of the sheer love she held for him. In watching this, it made me think deeply. All of us will be in this position eventually. We all grow old, our bodies waste away, and we develop diseases and sicknesses that make us incapable of caring for ourselves. Who will be the one beside you in that time, when you are unable to care for yourself?
When my wife left, this was the greatest thing that bothered me most. She had broken the trust of being there for me when we were wrinkled and gray. It is so important to consider the cost of marriage. This is how it ends if you are determined to live out faithfully “til death do us part”. One spouse sacrificially caring for the other.
If you are dating, or thinking of dating, may I tempt you to consider these questions:
“What do I want my life to be like from this point forward?” Right now, this very moment, no matter what your past has been or how you’ve been hurt or hurt others in your relationships…answer this question. Are you willing to submit yourself to serving God with your life…to serving others instead of yourself? To look to their needs instead of your own? Are you willing to open your life to the Love of God, and allow Him to shower that love onto others around you? Who do you want to live for? What will be your purpose? Look ahead, what do you see? Who do you see? Now look for that person who can help you get there.
“Will they be there for me?” Think about the character of the person that you need. You will be old one day! Do you see them being able to stay with you through it all? Will they put their hands into your urine and feces? Will they make sure you are comfortable? Will they prepare you something to eat? Or will they walk away and let someone else take care of you? Will they even care about you if you cannot meet their needs? Will they focus on themselves, or will they reach deep within a reservoir of selfless devotion and commitment to honor and care for you as God wills them to do so?
“Can I be there for them?” Do you have what it takes to care for this person when they need you the most? And they will need you. Do you have that reservoir of sacrificial love within you to help them as God would have you to do?
“At the end, can I say that my life had more purpose and fulfillment with them, than without?” Are they your companion? Is your relationship mutually invested and fueled by each other’s care and concern for the other? Is it one sided? Are you doing everything to make it work? If so, it will always be that way, and you will be very alone. Do you have a shared goal, or ministry to others? A spiritual foundation is a must if you want to find joy and peace in your relationship. Do they lead you to a higher purpose, do they seek out ways that you can serve others together? My parents’s shared beliefs and ministries strengthened their bond with each other, and developed a faith that showed up in their unyielding love.
In the late hours of night, my father took his last breath on earth, and took his first step in Heaven. My mother was by his side. Holding his hand. Watching his chest fall, but never rise.
Who will be the one beside you?