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The Next Nineteen Days

I promised in sickness and in health, now I realize the true measure of a marriage

We have just 19 days left. I am all too aware that these might be our last ones. If that's true, then what would we have left each other? I'm wondering. And hoping to answer well.

I remember like yesterday when he asked me to marry him. He started out by reminding me, "PKD [polycystic kidney disease] is a genetic disorder. When they tested me when I was 16, they said I didn't have it, but you just never know. It's only fair to warn you."

And I remember my answer: "I'd rather have 20 years of wonderful with you than to have never been your wife." I meant it then and I mean it now.

Small Bones of a Marriage

It's just that I'm so angry. This wasn't the deal, I rage to myself on occasion. But then, yes, it was. On my wedding day, a day filled with white dress, penguin tuxedos, the fragrance of flowers, friends, and fresh beginnings, it seemed a breezy thing to utter. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. For as long as we both shall live.

I just never considered that one of us might not live.

I wish I could say that such things overshadow all of marriage's burr-like irritations, but I'd be lying. But there is also that unbearable sticky sweetness in my soul, a heart that snaps pictures like crazy, wondering if any of this might be a last time.

Spooning just before drifting off to sleep. Holding hands and laughing while sitting together and watching an episode of M*A*S*H after the children are upstairs asleep.

The sound of his laugh. The way he loves to tease our four girls. The way he knows to order me a Diet Coke with lime at any restaurant. His generosity in watching untold numbers of chick flicks and Disney movies, given that our house swims in estrogen.

The feel of his calloused, warm hands on me. His smile and the way our eyes can communicate without a spoken word: I want out of here. I'd like to go get a treat. Come upstairs with me.

These are the ordinary things that comprise some small bones of a marriage. I place all these things in my heart, gathering them up like marbles in a jar, like treasures to take out and hold at a later time. Shiny things in case they might be all I have.

Letting Some Things Go

But we've also left a legacy. Our children. Our home. Our faith. Our rock solid commitment to stay with each other no matter what.

"We want a fiftieth anniversary if it kills us," we've often joked. "Sometimes we're just closer to death than others!"

It doesn't seem as funny today. In 19 more days, a precious live donor will share one of her kidneys with the love of my life. It is our hope that this operation saves his life. I'm counting on that.

And so, today, I let him leave the sink water running while he brushes his teeth. I know it drives him crazy when I shut it off and mention how much greener we are with silent sinks. It's a small thing.

I don't mention the turquoise towel thrown on the bathroom mat or the odd placement of the pillows that decorate our bed when he attempts to make it up for me in his madcap, manly way. I grin when he sings off key in the shower.

I would miss these things.

And this day, I am so thankful for them all, the big things, and small, that are the measure of our marriage.

Cindy Dagnan is a speaker and author of five books, including Hot Chocolate for Couples: Practical Ways to Sweeten Your Love Life (Harvest House Publishers). Her husband is doing well after the transplant, and slowly getting back to his routine.

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

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