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I Wanted to Kill Him

After my husband had a devastating stroke, our marriage fell apart. And so did I—to the point that I seriously considered ending his life.

Life as I knew it stopped on April 15, 1994. Before that day, my husband and I had lived fast-paced lives. For 24 years, Tony's sales jobs took us all over the country—from selling cameras to the White House and National Geographic in Washington, D.C., to putting on Press Photographers' shows in California.

We traveled on our frequent flyer miles, visited wonderful friends everywhere, and had a great marriage.

We bought a beautiful horse farm in north central Florida in 1985 where we bred Arabian horses and boarded other people's horses. I loved it. On our weekends together, Tony and I worked on projects we both enjoyed. On Saturday nights, we'd have friends over for a cookout—and Tony was always the king of the barbeque.

But then came the morning we were having a bowl of cereal and reading the paper together when Tony gave a slight cough.

I looked up and saw him sitting and staring into space. His tipped cereal bowl was spilling milk onto the sofa and under his leg.

"Tony, are you all right?" I asked.

After a long pause, he responded slowly with a quiet "Yes."

I wasn't convinced. Moments later, I noticed Tony standing in a daze, with the left side of his face drooping, his mouth turned down on one side.

I knew he'd had a stroke.

As I called an ambulance, Tony kept crashing to the floor every time he tried to stand. I convinced him to stay on the floor until the paramedics arrived.

Tony spent the next eight days in ICU, flat on his back, until they found the source of the stroke. Then he was sent to a rehabilitation hospital for therapy.

This couldn't be happening!

That first week was the most horrible week of my life.

My precious "I can do anything" husband, who built a horse farm for me and was so good at anything he put his hands to, was reduced to a pale, thin, drooling man who had to be tied into the wheelchair so he wouldn't fall out.

The shock was almost too much to bear. Would he be like this for the rest of his life? I felt like it wasn't real, as if it were some strange, surreal play. This just couldn't be happening to us!

For my sanity's sake, I had to believe God would miraculously heal Tony. It was too painful to think of any other option.

Everything became a dark blur for the next four months as I focused on Tony alone. During his month in the rehab hospital, I squeezed into the bed with him and stayed with him. We took naps together. We talked. I covered two walls of his room with his get-well cards.

We went to therapy together. With every step he took, holding onto rails and guided by his therapist, I mentally took it with him. He had to put plastic rings over cones to learn spatial concepts all over again, and practice silly rhymes with the speech therapist. And I was there, living every moment with him.

For the first few months, Tony improved significantly. He advanced from the wheelchair to walking on his own—though he dragged his left leg. He learned how to put on shirts with his right arm only, and how to get up when he fell. When his recovery slowed, I dragged him off to alternative medicine clinics, where he improved a bit more.

I still fully believed Tony would be miraculously healed, and we'd give God the glory. I continually repeated what I thought were Job's words in the Old Testament, "Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him."

I refused to give up.

Reality sets in

By that autumn, reality set in. Our income was reduced to disability insurance and Social Security. Tony had stopped improving; his left arm was still paralyzed and his left leg still dragged. Worse, his mental powers were almost gone. He couldn't follow a conversation without getting lost, and his keen wit had disappeared.

I went back to reading Job, and found that the passage I'd been quoting actually said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15, NKJV). In a way, I was relieved! "Trust" was easier to say than "praise," because "praise" wasn't what I felt. But I did trust God to get us through.

Yet I couldn't hold everything together alone. I couldn't care for Tony, our house, our horses, our farm, and myself without some help. While I took Tony to alternative rehab centers throughout the country, God provided friends who boarded their horses on our farm. Those friends kept the farm and house going. They mowed, watered, fed the animals, fixed fences, cleaned the house, and did laundry. One friend even laid out our bills with checks already made out—all I had to do was sign them.

Still, the thought of living with this man for the rest of my life was intolerable. Nothing about him seemed familiar. He was the shell of the man I once knew. He slept, or sat staring into space for hours. There was no communication between us. It was as if he were brain dead.

For two years, I could barely leave Tony alone in the house for a minute. He'd leave the water running, the refrigerator door open, or the gas flame flaring on the stovetop. When he wasn't wreaking havoc, he was in bed with the covers pulled over his head, sleeping and depressed. I wanted to just run away, to leave my marriage.

It was a horrible time.

I was furious at Tony

The miracle of God's healing still hadn't come. And I had to learn to lean on God. He was the only thing I could hold on to. Often I tried to imagine myself climbing into his lap, feeling his arms around me as he rocked me. My trust in him deepened, because it had never been tested with fire before.

Despite growing closer to God, I was still bitter about what happened to Tony—and to our marriage.

About three years after his stroke, I suddenly began feeling horrible anger that wouldn't go away—no matter how much I asked God to take it from me.

Every time I looked at Tony, I became furious. I began to think we'd both be better off if he were dead. I even thought seriously about how I could smother him with a pillow when he was asleep. I was so angry at him for destroying our fun and happy life we had together, that I wanted to end it all. I blamed Tony for doing this to our marriage, and I could find no forgiveness in my heart.

I worked hard to stuff my rage and appear calm and normal. But it was eating me inside. While I tried hard not to say or do anything ugly, I just wanted him to die. I found myself thinking, Divorce isn't an option, but murder is. And I meant it.

That's when I realized I needed help, and quickly. I went to see a Christian counselor, where I cried, wailed, talked, listened, and prayed. After about five months of twice-a-week appointments, I grew to accept Tony and my new life. Tony and I lived in separate worlds. I watched him struggle with anger and depression as he lay in his bed with the covers over his head, refusing to communicate. Yet God somehow helped me live through each new day even as I watched my marriage deteriorate. Slowly I found the strength to carry on.

When I first thought of going to a Christian counselor, I wondered if somehow I wasn't being strong enough. But looking back, I can now see how God used my counselor as part of his plan for my recovery and the salvation of our marriage.

After Tony's depression kept him in bed for six months, he was finally able to acknowledge his anger, and he began to accept his life. He also started to open up to me and try to communicate some of his feelings about the stroke, his life, and our marriage. It was a start to saving our relationship.

Contentment at last

It's now been nine years since Tony's stroke. It took a lot of work, counseling, and prayer, but I no longer harbor any anger or bitterness toward Tony or about those dreadful days in our marriage. As I look back over those hard years, I see how we've both grown and matured because of adversity. I wouldn't want to repeat the process, but I'm thankful for the unshakable faith I've gained along the way. Getting my way is no longer a priority, and the importance of love and relationship has replaced my need for travel and the pursuits of the world.

Tony is still paralyzed on his left side, but his mental capacities and his wit have returned, and we're in love. We've moved to a retirement village where Tony has a social life in the community. Tony's found peace as well. He takes our standard poodle to the nursing home everyday to visit people who are less fortunate than he is. And the time Tony and I spend together is again a joy.

If not for our relationship with Jesus Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, Tony and I would be divorced and broken. I could not have stayed in my marriage in those first few years were it not for the power of God—and the godly counsel I received.

Are we still hoping for God to swoop down and heal Tony? You bet! But we're content to find our joy, peace, and strength in God … until that day.

Amanda Rankin, author of Buddy Coaching,, can be reached at www.buddycoaching.com. Her husband, Tony, started www.ahelpfulhand.com, where he works with other stroke victims and offers his kitchen inventions and helpful hints to those with use of only one hand.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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