“For better, for worse, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish…” These are words that my Valentine and I spoke to each other in a covenant to God on December 4, 1998. We meant them that day as much as our hearts could mean them. He was my prince who had made all my dreams come true and I was his princess. Our home was established that romantic evening and our desire to stay faithful to one another and to God was burning in our hearts.
Life started and moved on. God called him away from the financial industry into the ministry. Children came and we even located away from our families where God called us to serve. We have had our ups and downs as every couple has as life gives you new adjustments. Some things we handled properly and some things we did not. All of those times were stepping stones in the path of married life that you learn from. Through all of that, our desire to be committed to one another and to our Lord stayed true.
The biggest challenge of our marriage came in March of 2009 when I became paralyzed. We are so thankful that our marriage was strong when that trial came into our lives because if it wasn’t, I just don’t know what may have happened. Everything that had been established as the “Reagan Home” was completely turned upside down. Suddenly becoming childlike and needing assistance in simple things like dressing, bath rooming, bathing and putting your shoes on to the simplest forms of romance – like no longer being able to hold hands as you walk together became so confusing and redefined our ideas of what our relationship was. No one wants a marriage to seem like parenting where one constantly takes care of the needs of others. But such is a marriage many times when one becomes disabled.
There were a few times that we both would just sit and cry. We were frustrated trying to understand all of these new things. Selfishness reared its ugly head as Jimmy and I both were trying to get a grip around our new roles in life. We discovered that although I am the one that became paralyzed and people notice me because I am sitting in that wheelchair, the disability belongs to both of us. His life changed as drastically as mine. His role in our disability doesn’t involve sitting in a wheelchair, living every day with pain, and not physically being able to be involved in things you once loved. However, his day involves not only the demands of the ministry, but also one of helping me all day long. Our marriage developed a new psychological and emotional layer that we had never before had to deal with. We both learned that there were new ways to meet each other’s needs, physically and emotionally, and we chose to dwell on the joy of discovery instead of the disappointment and frustration of what we had lost.
I love my Jimmy. He is my “gem” – a rare jewel above and beyond those who boast of their manhood. You want a man? Here you go. My man washes all the dishes in this house – I physically cannot reach my sink. My man washes all the laundry. I can’t even reach the knobs. He washes and dries and brings them to me and I fold. The children put away. My man brings me a cup of tea every morning. My man helps me cook meals and put things in and out of the oven. My man loads and unloads a wheelchair in the sunshine, the rain and the freezing cold. I have a lot of trouble regulating my temperature now so my man will sweat so that I won’t be cold. My man will physically put me to bed when I am too tired to make the transfer. Although I have now learned to be independent and do almost everything, he will do things for me anyway just to make my life a little easier.
Why would my Valentine do these things – knowing that this is it? For good. Permanent. No getting over the flu here and being normal again. Why? Why would we fight so hard to not only survive in our marriage but to desire it to thrive? Because this is love. A giving of yourself unselfishly as Christ did for us. This is keeping a promise that we made to God and to each other 12 years ago. “For better, for worse, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish…”