In Sickness and In Health

Submitted by Johanna on Wed, 06/24/2015 - 04:45

It’s been a hard day for her. Attempts to distract with offers of hot coffee or a sweet treat do nothing to stay her overpowering desire to ‘go home’.

“No!” she declares, “It’s too hot for coffee, and my husband will be looking for me soon. I have to go home.”

After many minutes of soothing her with quiet words and promises affirming that her husband will be coming in soon to see her, she eventually begins to move into the dining room to sit down for lunch.

She shuffles slowly down the hallway clutching her walker. I can’t help but sympathize with her. It’s a new and unfamiliar place – new neighbors, new caregivers, new surroundings, and an unaccustomed separation from her husband. It’s no wonder that she wants to go home.

Suddenly her expression changes. Her frown and dejected posture disappear as her shoulders lift and her face brightens. Tears of joy spring into her eyes as she calls out her husband’s name. Not truly expecting to see him, I peer around her to the front door, only to be pleasantly surprised. There he waits across the room from us, clinging tightly to his own walker. He is generally an evening visitor. It's almost as if he knew his wife needed him earlier today. His kindly face turns upward in a cheering smile, and for a moment the two of them are locked in a world of their own, each basking in the warmth of the other’s glance. He speaks her name, warm and low.

“My dear, what are we to do with you?” he asks affectionately, walking unsteadily over to us.

“It’s been so long since I’ve seen you!” she replies, a tear dripping down her cheek. “May I have a kiss?”

He laughs a little, with a slight note of pain hiding behind it. “Dear, I was just here yesterday. We sat there in the dining room right next to the piano and had our dinner together. ”

Met with a bewildered stare from his wife, the elderly man resignedly heaves a sigh and moves to her side. “You said you were hankering for a kiss?” he asks her. She nods her head. “Well, I think we can remedy that!” he grins, a twinkle in his eye as he leans in and kisses her gently.

Turning my head slightly to allow them their privacy, I steal glances over at them, holding this moment in my heart. In his eyes reside loving patience and care at which I can only marvel – a desire to ensure her well-being and reassure her of his love. As she turns to receive his kiss, a state of complete peace and contentment visibly falls over her.

In that split second I catch a glimpse of the young bride and groom I’ve seen only in wedding photos hung carefully on the walls of her apartment. For a moment they are transported back to the days of their beautiful youth and vigor, the times when they vowed to love each other ‘in sickness and in health…until death do us part’.

As they pull away from each other, the reality of our time re-inserts itself. All of a sudden I am aware of their heads covered in grey hair, numerous wrinkles wreathing their faces as they smile affectionately at one another, and every step wavering and unsteady. But oh the love! It shines steadfastly from their faces, evident to all.

Author's age when written


This is a beautiful little piece. What a wonderful thing to have witnessed. There is, of course, a twinge of bitterness behind it all--the way you wrote this, without ever explicitly stating any facts, was very refined. Again, kudos to you for capturing such a moment so vividly. I really enjoyed this!

This is absolutely beautiful, Johanna. What a sweet picture of faithful love and sweet understanding.
May God bless you in your service to these elderly people, and may He bless them through you.

I don’t thrive off of chaos: chaos thrives off of me.

Sounds like you've got an incredibly purposeful job right now. : ) This is beautiful, both in descriptions and in subject. God bless you and those you work with!

This is so sweet. You captured the moment beautifully.

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

This is absolutely wonderful Johanna! It is great to capture the experience of such a beautiful moment of life-long love! Write on!

"Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Oh my gosh, I've been thinking about this ever since I read it (and I wasn't even able to read all of it, because I was distracted by kids). I think I even dreamed about it.

Thank you all so much for your encouraging comments - I really do enjoy spending time with my "second family" at work, and love the opportunities that God has been giving me to share His love and light and truth with the people around me. And I love observing little moments like these :)

One thing I've been learning over the time I've worked at memory care is that it can be too easy to get caught up in the busy-ness and stress of trying to get everything done. It's so important to take the time to notice the little things, and revel in those moments when you get a glimpse of what really goes on in a resident's mind and heart. When you can take that time, you can truly see them as a person - one who has lived so many years, who has loved and cried and laughed and really lived life!

Anyways, sorry for the long comment, but thank you so much for your encouragement. I love hearing feedback from you all, and am delighted that I could share this story with others :)

"Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of."
- Charles Spurgeon

Just left me with my own memories after reading this. How lovely to witness that.

Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we just go back to page one and start all over again?” – Winnie The Pooh