Living Together: In Sickness And In Health

just married

[Monthly Columnist – Wendy van Eyck] – “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galations 6:2 (ESV)”

My husband and I started living together on the 16th of April 2011. The same day that we stood in front of 30 friends and family, and promised to love and honour each other, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health.

Moving in with my new husband, was great fun, and for us fairly easy.

There were unexpected things: disagreements about whether the bathroom seat should be up or down, about where it was appropriate to cut toenails, and how the chairs should be arranged.

Of all the things I didn’t expect about living together–discovering my husband, the man I was living with, had cancer–trumps them all.

Those vows I had blithely spoken 8 months before, thinking they would be for some far off day were suddenly real, in my face and scary.

It wasn’t the first time I’d lived with someone who was ill.

In one-way or another I’ve been a caregiver my whole life. First, with a mom who was in and out of hospital with a heart condition while I was growing up.

Then in my twenties my brother was diagnosed with Crohns Disease. He and I rented an apartment together and I’ve lost count of the number of doctors’ visits and operations and medications he took while we lived together.

In fact if my husband hadn’t been one of the healthiest men I’d ever met–before his cancer diagnosis–I might think that I’ve got some kind of caregiver-dependency problem.

When my husband was diagnosed I knew as a daughter and sister what living with someone with a chronic illness meant.

Now I was to discover what it meant as a wife to promise in sickness and in health.

In case you’re wondering it is hard.

It is hard to wake up next to someone you love in the middle of the night and feel them shaking from a fever. It is difficult to drive them to the hospital for another round of chemo. It is tiring coaxing them to take just another mouthful of pills.

It is tough to kiss their lips and know you can’t kiss them better.

And it’s taught me that sooner or later, in every relationship that is going to work, we have to carry each other’s burdens.

When we live with someone we have to come alongside them, when they are trying to carry something that is too heavy, crushing or troubling for one person to carry.

Right now I’m stepping up next to my husband and offering to help him as he struggles under the weight of cancer. On other days my husband is helping me to shoulder the load of insecurity, doubt and hopelessness I often drag around.

Perhaps that is why both spouses promise to love each other in sickness and in health because no relationship can survive if it is lopsided.

Sometimes we will carry them and sometimes they will carry us.

If we can grasp that our burdens are to be shared we’ll find the beauty of living together doesn’t lie in agreeing on where you place the chairs but in how you come alongside each other and support each other when the going gets tough.

QUESTION: Have you ever taken a risk and shared a burden with someone you have lived with (be it a parent, sibling, partner or friend) how did they respond? What advice would you offer to others in the same situation?

diva-wendyvaneyckWendy van Eyck lives in South Africa where she runs a 24-hour Gospel Music Television channel that broadcasts to 47 African countries. She loves traveling with her husband and they’re currently planning next years trip. Her website features devotionals that range from learning about God while doing laundry to discovering biblical truths while caring for her cancer fighting husband. Follow her on twitter: @wendyvaneyck.

[Picture: Alyssa Schroeder]