Today’s post is by author, speaker, and pastor, Jody Burkeen. Jody is the father of 4, husband to his wonderful wife, Nan for 25 years, and pastor at Ignite Church, in Eureka, MO.
In 1994, during a party my wife and I were attending, someone asked me a question I regret ever answering the way I did, “Do you think you could love your wife if she were disfigured, maimed, or paralyzed?”
In my drunken stupor I responded, “I’m not sure.”
Needless to say my wife didn’t buy the, “It must have been the alcohol talking” excuse.
August 4, 2015, marks a quarter century with my beautiful wife. I can’t imagine being with someone else. I envision us dying together like the old couple in the movie Titanic. As the ship goes does, we’re lying in the bed, spooning, knowing we lived a wonderful life together at peace with what’s to come.
Last February, that vision went cloudy with two words: “Breast Cancer.”
The day before we had been making grocery lists, putting kids’ schedules on the calendars, and about to start a new church. The very next day we heard the doctor say, “Stage 2,” and life was put on hold as we started facing the real possibility of death.
So we gathered ourselves together, started mining information, and faced some tough decisions. Should we go chemotherapy or mastectomy or double mastectomy? Frankly, I wanted to go back to choosing between Frosted Flakes or Coco Puffs.
We chose to start with chemo and the doctor reminded us of all the side effects: loss of hair, weight loss, extended sickness, nausea, diarrhea, and just plain tired. And like clockwork, these side effect hit my wife. She lost 25 lbs, all her hair, and has been sick throughout the chemo.
My wife has always been the backbone of our family. It’s been tough for our four kids to see Momma the way kids shouldn’t have to see Momma.
Unlike the fear that I and the children have – a fear of death – my wife has had a different kind of fear. Not that dying doesn’t come to her mind every now and then, but she has struggled with me wanting to leave her or fall out of love with her during this sickness because of the joke I made 20 years ago when my friend asked me that question. I wish I could go back in time and hit that my 24 year old immature self upside the head and give my wife the security that I meant what I said on our wedding day: “till death do us part.” I wish I could have reassured her in that moment we would be the old couple on the Titanic and tell her I’m not going anywhere.
But since I can’t jump in the Delorean and go back in time, I remind her daily that I’m not going anywhere, she is more beautiful than ever, and I will love her until the ship goes down.
Men, I guess the point I am trying to make is twofold: know when to clam up and know when to speak up. First, clam up when you’re about to say something stupid, even in jest. Secondly, speak up. Assure her with your words you will fight for her, stand up for her, and always be there for her.
Last February and many days this year my wife and I needed a reminder of what I committed to 25 years ago. What about you? How can you remind your wife you’re in it until the ship goes down?
Learn more about how you can partner with the Burkeen family at Nanette’s Caring Bridge site here.