My grandma suffered a stroke on Sunday morning. What ensued were manic visits to the hospital, agonizing waits for battery of tests, scans and probes to the tiny frame that is my 88 year-old Teochew-speaking Ah Ma. A steady stream of family members rallied round her, hoping that our moral support and physical presence would do miracles to her recovery.
In the 6 bedder ward where my Grandma was confined, there lie a Chinese lady (in her late 40s or early 50s), head half-shaven, being hooked up to the life support machine in her semi-conscious state. She had no visitors except for one – her long-suffering husband, who would visit her without fail after work and during lunch hours each day. He would come, kiss her gently on her forehead and massage his wife lovingly. A nurse revealed that his wife too is a stroke survivor, except her paralysis may be permanent…My heart ached for her, and for him.
As I observed this middle-aged couple, tears welled up in my eyes. How many marriages this day, when hit with storms of physical illness or debilitating conditions, are still committed to remain loving and functional? The healthy spouse has every right to begrudge the other, being thrust the burden as the primary-caregiver. Enduring through the seasons of sickness in a marriage requires a great deal of self-sacrifice. He has to live with threatened loss of personal dreams, goals and relationships. Yet in the face of life-altering uncertainties, he must muster the courage to maintain normalcy. Life must go on – if he collapses, so will she.
For couples dealt with life’s harshest blows, the simple words from the wedding vow, ‘in sickness and in health’ will now take on a meaning that far exceeds anything most people could ever understand. When we first make these promises on our Wedding Day, it sounded like a fairly easy proposition to be there for our spouse during the good times and bad. But nothing would prepare us to live out this vow, unless we have a deep-rooted commitment to each other – regardless, for better or worse, till death do us part.
We don’t have to visit a hospital ward to know that sicknesses and sufferings are not rare occurrences. But still, when we see it played out right before your eyes, it is sobering. A spouse doesn’t change a bed pan or a colostomy bag because it’s fun, but they do it out of love and commitment. They don’t care for their spouse with the motive that they will be returned the favor at a later time, but they do it out of love and commitment. Such unconditional acts of service and love honor their marriage, and at the core of their lives, it honors God.
We are into our 16th year of marriage this June (yes old right?), and I still wake up, thanking God daily for giving me a husband who bears my sufferings from our infertility to the traumatic child losses. If he had not camped by my bedside during those 90 days’ stay in the hospital; if he had not held my hands when the docs shook their heads; if he had not given me his shoulder to cry on when we handed our babies to the mortuary; if he had not hugged me tight and wept ‘God reigns’ when our world was turned upside down….I would have given up on faith, on hope, on life long ago. As modern day couples going through life’s trials, I pray God will strengthen all our marriages as we honour the covenant to hold on to each other. And when the tests come, that we may be found faithful to our spouse, right till the end.
Let me share an excerpt from this article: The Most Overlooked Characteristic of Who You Want to Marry
Find someone who suffers well.
I know it doesn’t seem important when life is perfect.
A beautiful smile is far more attractive than a quiet determination.
A common interest is far more appealing than internal strength.
Yet when life falls apart, you want someone you can run to,
not someone you want to run from.
In the Bible, Job’s wife responded to his suffering by saying,
“Curse God and die.”
Had he not suffered enough?
Was life not difficult enough?
Enduring hardship was enough, yet Job was also forced to rebuke his wife during his time of struggle.
Life is hard enough; there is no need to make it harder.
Choosing a spouse who does not suffer well makes life harder.
It makes every grief stronger.
It makes every sorrow more painful.
It makes every hurt deeper.
when our spouse knows how to suffer,
when they have don’t live in denial, but confront the sorrows of life,
when they don’t live in despair but know how to laugh and cry at the same time,
when they offer support and hope in all of life’s challenges,
when they can see the big picture of life,
every grief is wedded to hope
every sorrow is matched with love
and every hurt is paired with healing.