My friend of nearly 50 years is not just a news hound, but also an information hound.
She loves to hear what’s going in the world locally, regionally, statewide, nationally and internationally. That’s especially true concerning sports, where her strongest passion lies.
In addition, she likes good reads of other kinds, things that inspire us and are interesting or thought-provoking.
So, as I talked to her while on my noontime walk during my lunch period, I got a smile on my face when she said she heard a neat story she wanted to pass along to me.
As she told it, there was an elderly man whose wife had been stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. He took care of her at home almost exclusively by himself for a good while, but when her condition worsened and her needs became more than he could handle, he realized, regrettably, that he had to put her into a nursing home.
But that only slightly cut down on the time he spent with her, as he visited very day, arriving first thing in the morning and not departing until late at night. He hardly ever left her side.
Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and on and on it went. The disease kept taking more and more of her life and personality, but that didn’t dissuade him. He kept showing up, enjoying what little was left of the real her, the woman he had married decades before and with whom he had spent his entire adult life.
One day, an attendant came into the room and felt compelled to say to the man, “Sir, I am in awe of the love and devotion you have for your wife. It is truly inspiring to see. But you do realize, though, don’t you, that at this point, she has no idea of who you are?”
The man paused for a moment, considering what she had said, and finally shook his head affirmatively.
Then he quickly added with a warm, knowing smile, “But I know exactly who she is.”
At that moment, on a sidewalk along a street in a quiet, peaceful residential neighborhood, I stopped dead in my tracks and cried. I am not afraid – or ashamed – to tell you that.
What a beautiful response and an even more beautiful tribute to her, their marriage and what she still meant to him.
It’s easy on that joyous, happy wedding day, when everybody who means anything to you and your spouse is there, dressed to the nines, and you are overcome with emotion, to say, “I will,” when the priest, pastor or whomever is conducting the ceremony asks you if you will stand by your spouse in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, until death you part.
You’re obviously not thinking of the day when all that might come into play. But when it does 60 years later, did you really mean what you said and are you willing to put your actions behind those words?
That man was, emphatically so. It wasn’t even a question with him.
You don’t have to be married, though, to make a commitment to be there, ever faithful, when needed by someone else. It happens throughout our life with other family members and friends.
“Yes, call me anytime.”
“Sure, let me if you need anything.”
“Don’t hesitate to ask me for help.”
When those people beckon you, do you do what you said you would do? Or do you find excuses not to do so?
We are called not to be served, but rather to serve others. It’s not about us. It’s about everybody else, whether they be those around us in our little sphere or total strangers.
And the story of the man and his ailing wife is a good reminder of that for all us.