Joseph was sick this week. Like, really sick. (If you’re new here, Joseph has Sickle Cell — you can read more about what that chronic disease means for him here.) Usually, he’s pretty healthy, but his week meant: Stays in two different hospitals, his first blood transfusion, lots of pricks and pokes, IVs, shots, antibiotics — the works. To say my heart felt ripped into a million pieces as I watched my little boy hurt would be an understatement.
When you’re the parent of a little one with a chronic illness, something bubbles below the surface of exhaustion and fear and frustration. It’s your family. It’s your marriage. We’re learning that you have to make an effort to grab hands and face life’s hurdles together, especially when your world feels like it’s spinning out of control.
The hospital Joseph was admitted to is more than an hour from home, and I’m incredibly thankful that our nurse offered me and Asher (our 9-month-old) a room at the Ronald McDonald house so we could be close to Joseph while Jonny (my husband) stayed in Joseph’s room. Last night, Jonny hammered out some honest thoughts on marriage vows and what it means to commit to partnering with each other in sickness and in health.
Here are his words: “In sickness and in health.” These are standard lines in most wedding vows, words that are meant to convey the unending and caveat-free nature of two people’s love for each other. Generally, we understand these words as relating to the sickness or health of the two people making the vows. Generally, we don’t think much about these words at all.
I’m typing this in a hospital room. My third night in a hospital room in five days. Kayla wishes that she could be in this room, too. Two years ago when Joseph got sick, she was. A mother’s heart is always with her sick child, and her body wants to be with him, too.
Yesterday was a tough day. No parent wants to see their child sick, and with sickle cell magnifying every ache, every fever and every concern, the tension was high. I thank God for hospitals, but they’re no place for a family of four. Eventually, I boiled over. I snapped and yelled and said the type of things that are always immediately regretted. I bent and bent and eventually broke. I’m not writing this as penance. I apologized, she forgave, all is well. I’m not writing this to win points for being “real.” Anyone who knows me can tell you that, if anything, I could stand to dial the “real” back a bit. I’m writing this because I realized something and I think it’s important: the vows we take mean something. They are not just words of good intent. They are guideposts for our future.
Our family has been put together by God. There are too many variables, too many obstacles, too many pieces that have been put into place for me to come to any other conclusions. And even though I didn’t know it when I said the words, I committed to love and stand by Kayla in the sickness or health, not just of each other, but of our entire family that God would build.
It is one of the hardest things to watch your child suffer. Unfortunately, that difficulty sometimes manifests itself in tension with one another. That’s when I need my reminder, that God knew more than I did when this whole thing got started, and that I’m so blessed to be committed to her, in sickness and in health.