When God Turns the Tables

Perhaps 15 years into our 42 year marriage, it became pretty clear that Nancy would outlive me. Women generally outlive men. She has always taken better care of herself than I have–better diet, more exercise, meditation, yoga, Sudoku. For me, this natural state of things was always premised on the virtual guarantee that I would, by predeceasing her, leave her to deal with the messy emotional and social fallout.   Similar, in many respects, to my point of view concerning the weddings of our daughters–they just seemed to happen on their own, and all I had to do was show up properly dressed with as few prepared remarks as possible.

Along with the diagnosis of late stage pancreatic cancer came this ridiculous possibility that I would outlive her. A scenario I had literally never considered. I recall having laughed out loud at my father, 14 years older than my mother and with his own cardiologist, who would occasionally wring his hands about what he was going to do when Mom was gone. His worries were, as expected, unfounded.  Mine, perhaps not.

[In fact, my concerns may be misplaced, just like my father’s were.  Nancy is doing remarkably well with chemo, her blood chemistry is all in the green, her weight has stayed up and she shows very little in the way of slowing down.  She doesn’t complain about her neuropathy the way she used to, especially during infusion week. My own health is “OK,” which is to say not perfect but not imminently dangerous.]

As an economist, I’m comfortable around statistics.  As a reformed gambler, I still figure the odds and go with what seems most likely. As (determined by StrengthFinders) someone who practices intellection, these statistics and odds and percentages bounce around in my brain.  I talk to Jesus about them in the Chapel. He reminds me we know not when nor where. I remind him of five year survival rates and the physical effects of long term exposure to chemotherapy.

Since Day One, Nancy has not wanted a prognosis attached to her condition, and has been more or less actively disinterested in her disease other than routine conversations with her oncologist. In this, her approach differs from mine, as I’ve always been more comfortable with a devil I know than one I don’t. But, as a spouse, I have recognized, out loud, that this is her journey, that I am beside her for care and support, that she will make these types of decisions–what and whether to talk about–and I will respect her choices.

old-couple in loveAnd so here is the point. The spouse with the serious illness gets to make these calls, all of them. How much to know and how much to leave unsaid. What to discuss and what not to discuss. The caregiver must willingly include these in the inventory of things about which you will want to talk less. If, as in my case, you find a need to discuss concerns you cannot comfortably share with your spouse, do what I do and talk to a counselor every now and again.

In the most recent ten years of our marriage, when we both worked, we had maybe 30 minutes in the evening to sit together and discuss the day’s events.  Now, we no longer have work, we have a few subjects that are off limits, and instead of 30 minutes we have more like 10 hours. Nancy has been more comfortable with these periods of sustained silence than have I, but I’m getting better. Spouses may want to prepare for these in advance, as they should not be misinterpreted as character flaws or a lack of bonhomie, as it were.

It has taken me awhile to understand God’s will in this radically-altered future of ours. This, what we are living, is God’s will. It is God’s will that Nancy carry on her lifelong interest in learning and teaching, and that she be allotted time to do so. It is God’s will that she can suffer in private and go out socially looking healthy and vibrant. It is God’s will that she have someone like me to hang around and take care of her. And it is God’s will that I have finally found a vocation, after decades of searching, that gives me a feeling of purpose and allows me to express my love language–acts of service–every day.

Life is not a bed of roses, and Christian marriage comes not without costs. But being married, at this stage in our lives, is a blessing beyond measure. If you are struggling in your marriage, it may help you appreciate each other by fast-forwarding the film 25 or 30 years, to an empty nest and a dread disease. For the sick spouse, you are unlikely to be able to purchase such loving care on the open market. For the caregiver, being in a position to uphold the marriage vows you made 40 years earlier is a great honor, likely held in high esteem by God. And no couples get there without weathering some serious storms along the way.cropped-lse-masthead6.jpg

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Accept One Another

Once again, we’ve turned to Huffington Post for some great advice on making marriage work.  In a culture that seemingly wishes to see the institution of marriage torn down to the ground, HuffPost occasionally stokes the fires of dissolution.  Yet, it also clears the bases every now and again with a thoughtful post about building stronger marriages.. This piece was written by Ravid Yosef, a California “Dating/Relationship Coach.”  We reproduce it in its entirety as it is short, concise and in need of no embellishment.  God bless you all.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Love in fact, does not conquer all. It’s a common misconception that if you love someone, everything else will work itself out, but love alone is not enough.

Acceptance is what will get you through to the other side. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that you can choose it for exactly what it is. Because when you do choose it for what it is and what it isn’t, it brings something entirely new into your world.

Once there is acceptance, you bring peace and change to your energy, and from there anything you create with the person you love is possible.

That’s not to say that you must accept everything in your relationship. You shouldn’t accept any abuse, physically or emotionally, and you must establish your deal-breakers along with making sure you are compatible, have similar core values and a vision for your future.

However, there are things you must accept in the one you love and in your relationshipCBurrowsphoto #1 in order to bring peace into your life.

Here are 20 things you must accept for your relationship to succeed:

1. Accept the things you cannot change.
2. Accept that you cannot fix your partner.
3. Accept that your partner is not perfect.
4. Accept that not everyone will behave as you do.
5. Accept that just because they don’t behave like you, it doesn’t make them wrong.
6. Accept their flaws.
7. Accept love as they are able to give it to you.
8. Accept that you love them.
9. Accept that we all experience things (including love) differently.
10. Accept that sometimes they can be a bit of a mess.
11. Accept the mess in the sink.
12. Accept that they are human and will make mistakes.
13. Accept their apology.
14. Accept your differences.
15. Accept that everyone has a past.
16. Accept that they cannot read your mind.
17. Accept that they can’t live up to an expectation you don’t communicate.
18. Accept that you are not always right.
19. Accept that there will be good and bad times.
20. Accept them.

What you resist will persist and will drive you absolutely crazy. By accepting, you are opening up a space for something completely new to happen in your relationship. Can you accept the challenge?

Ravid Yosef works with clients in Los Angeles and virtually around the world. Download her free eBook “Is He Realtionship Material?” from YourTango.com to learn all the signs to look for before you commit.

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“Be a Man” Who Takes His Family to Church

Two years ago my father-in-law gave me the book “Be a Man” by Fr. Larry Richards. This is one of my favorite books and I have read it multiple times. Fr. Richards explains that to “be a man” we are to live as the son of God, be strong, be faithful and be committed. Essentially, we need to “grow a pair” (sorry), man-up and have a strong backbone.

Be a Man, by Fr. Larry Richards

Be a Man who is Holy

Fr. Richards explains that one of the ways we are to “Be a Man” is to be a man who is Holy. Since my vocation is marriage I have to do everything in my possible will to make it so my wife and children get to Heaven. Not only do I have to be a strong example, a good teacher, a loving husband and father but I also need to put my family in situations that allow them to grow and practice their faith. Well, today I blew it.

Typically, our family goes to 8am Sunday Mass and my wife and I have a pretty good system for getting our three kids awake, fed, everyone showered, dressed and out the door. Normally, we have a relaxing drive to Mass and I enjoy that time to reflect on where we are in the liturgical calendar and the day’s readings. But this morning I was moving a bit slow. Although I got the kids fed I decided to make them a bigger breakfast than normal and allowed them to watch a little bit of TV so I could read an interesting article I came across online. Meanwhile, my wife is doing her due diligence in our typical Sunday morning routine. Although the article I read was very interesting it was way too long and now it is getting late. So I gasped when I saw the clock and ran the kids upstairs to get them dressed while proceeding to  negotiate with them because I seemed to have selected clothing they all clearly disagreed with. So I left it to Sarah, my wife, to fix it so I can start to get ready. With less than 5 minutes before the start of Mass we jumped in the car and drove to Mass and walked in during the Gloria. We were late. But that is not exactly where I missed the mark. When we got to Mass my mind was not on the Mass and I assume that would be the same for my wife. It took us until after the homily to finally relax but I had no idea what just happened before.  I didn’t listen to the readings and my mind was wandering. Then I sat there in guilt because I was not a man who allowed my family to get to Mass on time and with clear minds.  This is not being a man who is Holy.

If I am to “Be a Man” who is to create the best situation for my family to practice and grow in their Catholic faith then I failed today. A strong man is someone who puts his whole family first and not himself. The article I read in the morning could have waited or I could have woken up 15 minutes earlier.

~Be a Man and God Bless.~