Sometimes love is displayed best when it’s tested the most. When life, as we know it, seems to be crashing in around us, our opportunity to demonstrate the depths of our love is magnified. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…til death do us part. That’s what marriage is all about.
Today, author and speaker,Suzie Eller, unviels a very personal and captivating story revealing the beauty of love. This truly is a love story that will not only leave you speechless, but will challenge and inspire you to passionately love your spouse.
He found me weeping bitterly in the hospital room.
“What’s wrong?” Richard asked, knowing that we both had reason to cry.
In the past forty-eight hours, I learned that I had a cancerous lump in my breast that had spread to my lymph nodes, and there was a possible spot on my brain. We were both thirty-two with three young children.
Richard pulled me tight. Our friends and family had been amazed at the peace that had overwhelmed us. Jesus was our Savior and comfort before I found out I had cancer, and he remained the same after my diagnosis. But it seemed to Richard that the terrifying reality of my situation had finally crashed in on me in the few moments he was out of the room.
“It’s all been too much, hasn’t it?”
“That’s not it,” I held up the hand mirror I had found in the drawer.
Richard looked puzzled.
I had stared in shock at my reflection in the mirror. I didn’t recognize myself. I was swollen. Betadine stained my neck, shoulder and chest and it was too soon for a bath. A tube hung out of my side draining fluid. My left shoulder and chest were wrapped tightly in gauze where I had lost a portion of my breast. My long, curly hair was matted into a big wad.
More than one hundred people had come to see me over the past forty-eight hours, and they had all seen this brown-and-white, swollen, makeup-less, matted-haired, gray-gowned woman who used to be me.
Richard left the room.
Within moments he came back, his arms laden with small bottles of shampoo and conditioner confiscated from the cart in the hall. He pulled pillows out of the closet and dragged a chair over to the sink. Unraveling my IV, he tucked the long tube from my side in his shirt pocket. Then he reached down, picked me up and carried me – IV stand and all – over to the chair. He sat me down gently on his lap, cradled my head in his arms over the sink and began to run warm water through my hair. He washed and conditioned my long curls. He wrapped my hair in a towel and carried me, the tube, and the IV stand back over to the bed. He did this so gently that not one stitch was disturbed.
Next came the mascara, blush, and lipstick…
My husband, who has never blow-dried his hair in his life, dried my hair, the whole while entertaining me as he pretended to give beauty tips. I laughed as he bit his lip, more serious than any beauty-school student as he fixed my hair. He bathed my shoulder and neck with a warm washcloth, careful to not disturb the area around the surgery, and rubbed lotion into my skin.
Then he opened my makeup bag. I will never forget our laughter as he tried to apply my mascara and blush. I opened my eyes wide and held my breath as he brushed the mascara on my lashes with shaking hands. He rubbed my cheeks with tissue to blend in the blush. With the last touch, he held up two lipsticks.
“ Berry mauve or muted wine?” he asked. He applied the lipstick like an artist and then held the little mirror in front of me.
I was human again. A little swollen, but I smelled clean, my hair hung softly over my shoulders and I recognized myself.
I started crying again, this time because I was grateful.
“No, baby. You’ll mess up my makeup job,” he said and I burst into laughter.
During that difficult time in our lives, I was given only a 40 percent chance of survival over five years. That was eighteen years ago. I made it through those years with laughter, God’s comfort and the help of Richard. Last November we celebrated thirty years, and our children (who were in elementary school) are now married and young adults. In fact, I’m expecting my first grandbaby in July!
I will always be grateful that Richard understood what must have seemed like vanity and silliness in the midst of tragedy, and helped me feel like me again.
Everything that I had ever taken for granted had been shaken – the fact that I would watch my children grow, my health, my future. With one small act of kindness, Richard gave me normalcy. I will always see that moment as one of the most loving gestures of our marriage.
I love you, Richard Lee Eller. I always will.
Perhaps Suzie’s story of tragedy and triumphant has encouraged you in your own journey. I’d love to hear from you. Maybe you stand in need of prayer. It would be my honor to pray for you.
To learn more about Suzie Eller, her ministries and her books, visit her website at www.tsuzanneeller.com