January 10, 2012

In Sickness and In Health

Here is the most common wedding vow used in America:
      I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, 
for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

So what do those words mean when "in sickness and in health" means one spouse's health changes everything about who that person is? A couple days ago a beautifully written story appeared in The Washington Post about how illness changed the dynamic of a family into a unique situation that has yielded criticism and commentary from around the world. Here's my crude attempt at summarizing:
In 2003, the husband had a debilitating heart attack that eventually led to such terrible brain injury that he'd forgotten most about his own life and who he was. His children, who were infants at the time, have grown to know him as a father who spends his days in assisted living with people many decades older than he is. His wife committed herself to caring for him while becoming the sole provider for their family. In the following years, she received help from friends, including one man who she'd known since childhood. Their friendship blossomed and eventually she began to have romantic feelings for him.
In the article she discusses how she felt terrible about her romantic feelings. She was still married, even though she'd felt as if all of who her husband "was" was gone. She wanted to keep her vow to care for him but she also longed for companionship - and someone who could fulfill a fatherly role for her children. Eventually, the man proposed and she accepted. She sought help from her husband's family, who was supportive of her new relationship. In the meantime, the new suitor in her life also began a friendship with the disabled husband. The boyfriend would take the husband to breakfast once a week, would make frequent visits, and would email him daily.
With the support of her church and her husband's family, the woman divorced her husband, gained legal guardianship of him, and married the other man under the condition that there would always be care given to the ex-husband.
Since then, the family has a new dynamic. The family now consists of all the children, the new husband, the wife, and the ex-husband.
This is certainly a unique situation. We've heard of people having good relationships with ex-spouses, but there are few who continue to care for them as if they are still upholding the "sickness and health" vows they made on their wedding day.

This topic also reminded me of a trailer for an upcoming movie called The Vow. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! Somehow even describing it as a unique situation feels like an understatement! Thanks for sharing the story.

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