In sickness and in health. When Heather and I shared those vows on our wedding day I envisioned growing old together until one of us took our last breath. I imagined that, if God allowed, our final days on Earth would likely be filled with doctor appointments and hospital stays as the nemesis of old age encroached upon our love story. I was determined, however, to be just as faithful in those latter years as I was at the beginning of our life together. Now, all these years later, I remain just as committed to that promise.
What I could not have imagined, though, was that the severe illness plaguing our marriage the most would not wait until our golden years to put us to the test. Nor did I predict that the most trying disease we would face as a couple would not be our own. Married just eight years when Carson was diagnosed with leukemia, Heather and I were deeply content with one another and still very much in love. Yet, the three years that followed were a whirlwind of exhausting trips to Memphis, abiding fear for our son’s welfare, and isolation from many of the people we loved and the things we enjoyed doing. It was terrible.
The ever-present stresses that accompany a battle with pediatric cancer are enough to ruin the best marriages. Though I have no concrete data to support it, a common word of caution passed around St. Jude Hospital was that as many as half of the couples who began caring for a child with cancer would separate before treatment ended. I understand why. Yet, this is where our story diverges from this common plight.
Though we did not emerge unscathed, I can truthfully say that Heather and I are much closer as husband and wife after walking through our familial valley. Why? Largely because of her. My wife would never fancy herself as a strong woman. She loathes public speaking; she doesn’t enjoy taking the lead; and she despises being the center of attention. Working behind the scenes is where she shines, pushing others into the limelight rather than taking it for herself.
Yet, what she perceives to be weaknesses is actually what makes her so strong. I saw it firsthand when Carson was ill, and I remain in awe of her courage and resolve to this day. Heather fought for normalcy during those years. She transformed our home into a fortress of rest and protection. Whenever I was discouraged, she insisted that we were making progress. She kept our home germ free so that our son could thrive. She prepared meals that were in line with his strict diet. She cared for our youngest child at the time (Brady) as he learned to walk and talk. And when news came that our third son was on the way, she chose to view it as a healthy distraction despite the added stress to an overwhelmed schedule.
Now, with five kids in the house, Heather continues to juggle daily routines, balance fun with responsibilities, and point all of us to what matters most in life. She was, and she is, the glue that holds our family together. She is the strongest woman that I know, and I am a better man for having married her. Hope When Life Unravels focuses on all that God taught our family through our son Carson, but another volume could be written about how the Lord speaks to us through the wife and mother who is at the center of it all.
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