by Kathleen Blease
This post is similar to my recent article at CatholicMom.com, entitled A Very, Very Atrractive Man. For this reason, I hesitated posting Beautiful Life here. But after a little prayer, it occured to me that it was written to be read. It wasn't meant to be stored somewhere in the arhives of Kathleen's Documents. So here it is. God bless. Kathleen
There was a strange man in the driveway. I had never seen him before. He was thin and little bent over, and he was shuffling as he walked. His clothes hung on him a little and his demeanor was quite sad. Who was he? What did he want? Neighbors in this area are very much Pennsylvania Germans and are rather private people, so it is unusual for a stranger to stop by just to say hello. When he finally came closer to the house, at the end of the sidewalk, I recognized him.
He was my husband.
Before he made it in the kitchen door, I put down the dishes I was stacking and made a hasty retreat to the powder room where I had a good but silent cry. I splashed cold water on my face, then returned to the kitchen to greet my husband after his day at work.
This occurred last fall, and by that time my husband had been sick with protein-losing entropathy—a fancy way of saying that his body stopped absorbing protein all together—for about three years. Roger lost fifty pounds, most of his muscle mass, his straight posture, strength, and even some of his baby fine curly locks..
I had no idea at that time that it was about to get worse. The winter brought cold weather in eastern Pennsylvania, and Roger hadn't the strength to keep up his body temperature. His skin turned blue and he was ice cold to the touch. By this time, he had undergone every kind of medical test under the sun, at least the ones doctors hoped would bring answers. With each test, our hopes would rise. Then they were dashed when yet one more came back marked negative or inconclusive. It was an emotional rollercoaster.
As my husband grew weaker and still bluer and thinner, I prayed that he would last through the nights. Many evenings, I went to bed mentally preparing myself that he just might slip away during the night. (I only recently admitted this to my husband.) It was indeed rock bottom, and we were both very scared, praying with all our hearts.
We had family members pray. We had friends say rosaries. My sister-in-law called upon the Carmelites to put Roger on their list of special petitions.
By April, Roger had a little more spring in his step, but by May he landed in the hospital with a blood clot that began in his right neck. It developed in his jugular vein and ran down his arm an unbelievable twelve inches. It then came up the other side of his arm, making it a full twenty-four inches of clot. The doctors were very concerned, and they went into action trying to prevent a stroke—not a healthy prognosis for a man of just forty-five.
It was a difficult month, but we all pulled through, and prayer was at my personal center. St. Joseph guided me and offered me his comfort. I thought about him often. As a father living in a dangerous culture, he protected and provided for his family through the most difficult of terms. Of course, he would understand what Roger was going through. What a struggle for my husband to continue running his little company—which rest solely on his expertise—all the while providing for his wife and children who depended on his one income! Surely, St. Joseph understood, and I asked him to pray that my husband would be encouraged and inspired.
I also prayed to Mary, Mother of God. Surely she could help me as I watched my loved one suffer. A perfect mother, a perfect sole, the first tabernacle...how could I go wrong turning to her guidance and intercession? Through her, I could see the suffering face of her Precious Son in my husband's, and I could see then that I could comfort Jesus, if only a bit, by comforting my husband. Back rubs were a welcomed gift, and asking, “Can I get you something to help you feel better?” were somewhat soothing. But the hardest task for me was actually to hold somethings back—they were, my opinions and suggestions. My husband will probably testify (if you force him) that I failed at this many times. The truth is, someone who is sick really is trying to do his best to get better. He doesn't need yet another home remedy or Internet-induced medical opinion. He just needs comfort and love. Better to find a sore spot and rub in silence. It does wonders for the spirit.
Throughout my husband's illness, each day Christ is present in our home. There in the face of the sick and needy is Jesus hanging on the cross, saying “I thirst.” He doesn't thirst for drink. He thirsts for you and me and all God's creation to come to him. Through Holy Communion, Christ is physically present, yet hidden, to give us grace to make it possible to live His will. Now my ailing husband was giving a face of my dear hidden Jesus. At first, I had a hard time coping with the daily sickness, and I prayed to Christ to ask him to heal Roger. But then my prayers became more of this nature: “My dearest Christ, please show me what to do for my husband. Your will be done. Show me your will.”
I know the Lord doesn't will my husband's illness, but by giving back to Jesus all that comes with my husband's suffering, Roger and I can join Him at the cross and personally witness His sacrifice and His devotion to His creation (that's us). Does that make sense? All I know is that it's a remarkable gift, this opportunity to witness His love in the unique way. It's not easy, but it is precious.
When I left my husband in the hospital in May, it was hard to walk out of his room and close the door. I remember feeling the cold, clunky door handle and thinking, I don't like this place. It's not home. And by the time I made it to the elevator, I was crying. I hated leaving him there in the steel and brick building. With all the beeps and clicks of the machines, with nurses who pushed computers from room-to-room, with food that showed up on black trays—with these I couldn't imagine leaving him. And I hated that bed. It made it impossible for me to reach my husband. The best I could do was lean against his bent knee and rub his legs. Not much hugging and snuggling there!
But something began to calm me during my drive home. There was lots of time to think, and I slowly realized that all this suffering Roger and I witnessed together lead to a truth I couldn't deny. It's this: We live a beautiful life. Jesus has been beside us all along, from the moment we met and married. But now...now we can actually see Him, the Hidden Jesus revealed. How much more beautiful can life get?
Post Script: Since this post was written, my husband has gained a little weight and strength, and he is under the care of an excellent hemotologist. However, the doctors are still no closer to finding the source of his illness. Nevertheless, I am thankful that we'll be entering the winter months with Roger a little stronger than he was last year. Please continue praying for him. This means a great deal to us! And realize that the face of Jesus is in each person who is suffering! Peace.
This blog's mission is simple--to encourage moms who are married to non-Catholics and raising their children in the Faith. If you know a mom who needs a little encouragement in continuing her efforts, I would be delighted if you would share Kathleen's Catholic with her. Thank you!