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. . . In sickness and in good health

Janelle Harris

. . . In sickness and in good health

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I CAN JUST LOOK at some couples and be thankful for love. In its run-of-the-mill usage, “love” is a nondescript noun, a word that gets thrown around like “hater” or “swagger”, a term applied to situations that it has no business being applied to.
But when I look at these particular men and women, I feel like I can see and maybe even touch love, because it hovers around them like an almost tangible glow.
I’ve always said I want a Cliff and Clair Huxtable marriage if and when I ever jump the broom myself, but I’ve also had the honour of witnessing that kind of love in real life between my grandparents, who flirted with each other even after four decades of marriage; my pastors, a dynamic husband-and-wife team sharing their lives and ministry; and my aunt and uncle, who were imperfect separately and collectively, but were unquestionably steadfast in their own special brand of adoration for each other.
Once during a particularly aggravating space in their them-dom, they decided to get divorced. They still loved each other, they said, but they just felt like their lives were going in separate directions.
Things happen in folks’ relationships, especially when they’ve spent 20 years getting to know the idiosyncrasies of another person as well as they know their own.
To top it all off, they’d gotten married so young, they couldn’t even legally celebrate their nuptials with a drink. So they’d not only been life partners, they’d also grown up together, in a sense. And they’d come to a point where they felt like they’d done all the sharing they were going to do.
He moved back to Maryland, she stayed in Florida, and it seemed like the curtain closed on one of my favourite romantic stories.
Then, about a year after they’d split, my aunt started feeling sick. She was having bad stomach cramps, to the point she could barely sit or stand without pain, and was lethargic and unable to eat.
She was fun and spunky – always the first to learn a new dance, the only one in our family to even think about thinking about thinking about running a marathon – so her symptoms were immediately alarming.
When her sisters, including my mum, went to visit her in Tampa and she didn’t have the energy to take them on her usual whirlwind tour of the city, it was confirmed without even yet being official. Something was wrong.
My aunt had stomach cancer. It was advanced and, almost like a secret that was relieved to finally be out, her health deteriorated quickly.
There was a flurry of decision-making as my family tried to figure out what to do with her house, her belongings, her car; how to best get her back up north; whose home could accommodate her with the fewest obstacles.
We dived into researching local treatment centres. If cancer wanted to act tough, we were fittin’ to chase it right on back to wherever it cropped up from.
I’m still not even sure who told him that she was sick, but I do know that my uncle – the one who’d gone back to being a bachelor after their divorce – called from my aunt’s house to say he’d gone to get her.
He made the arrangements to get her things and handle her affairs and notify whoever needed to be notified. He took her back to his home and set up an infirmary in his living room.
He interrogated doctors at Johns Hopkins about treatment plans. He nursed her when the chemo made her too weak to eat and too nauseous to run to the bathroom. He encouraged her and loved on her until the Lord called her home to rest.
When I heard the story of Chris Draft and his wife Keasha, it reminded me so much of the love between my aunt and uncle.
Seeing her in her cute “Mrs. Draft” tank top, looking absolutely gorgeous even in her illness, made me tear up – but the video of the ceremony had me reaching for tissues.
On the one hand, it seems so unfair that they would be married only a month before she lost her fight with cancer. But you know what?
She got to bask in the affections of a man who clearly loved her through health and sickness, better and worse, and he got to make it official with a woman he didn’t just love, but experienced.
That’s so precious. If I ever jump across anybody’s broom myself, that’s the kind of love that I’m hoping for. Tried, tested and proven.