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How I Get Through Life With a Chronically Ill Wife

Roses are red. Violets are blue. Sometimes I wonder how we get through.

Life, that is. How do we (my wife and I) get through a life that requires an all-star team, when half the team is on injured reserve? How do I — in my dual role as coach — also juggle team morale issues, logistical concerns and what to do about all those piles of dirty uniforms? Well, simply put, you lace ‘em up and run out on the field every day. You show up.

Now, it’s not that simple. It never is. You have to perform and to a high level on most days. Some days, the bar is set at survival (OK, many days). Other days, you can accomplish superhuman feats. But the reality is that the alternative to not showing up is to let the team down. And failure is not an option for this team because you love the team too much to see it fail.

In the first years of my wife’s illness, I subconsciously told myself that “normal life” was just a matter of time. The odds were incredibly stacked in our favor that the medical community would figure this out and these obstacles would be but a memory in the past. That’s how things went for nearly every other person in their 30s that I knew. But when that did not occur and we seemed further from answers than ever before, I realized that focusing on the “why” and the “when” was incredibly short-sighted. Those were answers I was not privy to, and may never be privy to. Instead, I realized I was placed in the exact position that I had been called for — the one I believe my creator built me for in this time and place. I believe who I was has been designed for my wife, our family, this life — today and every day thereafter.

Embracing this reality freed me to operate within my gifts, with the confidence that there was nothing too large and impossible that would take me out of the game. And trust me, there were plenty of “impossibles” that came up, and still do. The point was I had to take my place where I was positioned and be the conduit of caring I was called to be.

I distinctly remember times (not too long ago) when I would finish a week having worked 60-plus hours, driven 12-plus hours between work and chauffeuring kids, averaging four hours of sleep per night and feeding/picking up after a family of five. And I would marvel at how I had just what I needed in order to meet what others needed. And in the end, everyone was cared for. I didn’t meet all their needs, but I did what I was called to do.

In fact, that’s what we’re all called to do. Because without the faithful care provided by so many other people outside of my family, we would still have come up short despite my provision of everything I had. That’s why my job and your job are no different when it comes to caring for our spouses. For every marriage, for every “for better” and “for worse,” we are called to care and love according to the measure that has been apportioned to us. And, by the way, that’s why chronically ill spouses never ever have to feel inferior on the marital love scale. Success is in the full delivery of each spouse’s whole-hearted contribution.

As a wise blogger once remarked, “We don’t get to pick. We only get to equip.” Meaning, we may not be able to choose what happens along our journey but can choose to take our rightful place alongside those with whom we journey. That blogger just happens to be on my team. And for her:

Roses are red. Violets are blue. Life is hard, but I still choose you.

black and white photo of a wedding couple on the beach
Ryan and his wife Stacey on their wedding day.

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