My friend Ann was driving through the cemetery in the blazing heat one summer afternoon and her heart was heavy with grief. Her father had died four months before and nothing could shake her of the sense of loss – until suddenly, there was an interruption.
This year marked a decade of marriage for my wife and me, and after our handful of years together, we still have a long way to go. Even so, we’ve made progress in some important ways and I would encourage any couple to try growing in these areas:
It was Christmas Day of 2002 and I boarded a flight to Milwaukee with a ham as a carry-on. The ham was a gift from my mom to my ham-loving brother. The ham was in a box, which I put in the overhead compartment next to my bag, and then waited to take off. Unfortunately, though, we sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes, raising the risk of me missing my connecting flight in Detroit.
“Honey, I’m not feeling well,” I said as my stomach began churning after Christmas Eve dinner at my sister’s house. Three hours later, I was slumped over a toilet, feeling the full effect of a merciless virus.
To President George W. Bush: Mr. President, I’m writing to tell you that I watched the eulogy you gave your dad this week, and it hit me hard. I thought you were going to get through it without giving into emotion, but right at the end, grief snuck up on you and did a sucker punch to your gut. The tears came.
It was Christmas of 1984, and my mother crammed my three older siblings and me into a compact car and took us to Arkansas to celebrate the holiday. I vaguely remember it — my mother, on the other hand, remembers it quite clearly. Apparently, it was pretty rough. No doubt, putting one adult, two older teenagers and two small boys into a small car for six hours was a recipe for disaster. One of us — I shall not say who — was behaving horribly and Mom couldn’t seem to get control of the situation. She was exasperated nearly the entire time.
For a period of time in third grade, I cringed when it came time to pay for my lunch — there wasn’t enough money for us to pay for it. I felt humiliated by getting free lunch. I had seen kids walk up to the lunch lady without handing her any change and I had looked down on them. Now I was one of those kids.
“What is wrong with you?” my wife asked. I was cranky, snippy, and easily annoyed – by her, by my daughters, by the universe. I knew why, but I didn’t want to talk about it.
One time, I met a D.C. traffic-directing cop in the line at the mall and I remarked how dangerous her job was. “I mean, people in D.C. drive so crazy,” I said. “You could get killed.” “Oh no,” she said, “don’t feel sorry for me. Feel sorry for the people in parking enforcement. They get screamed at, spat on, cursed out – you name it. It’s horrible.”
Last Friday night, my two-year-old son had a cold that suddenly started getting worse. He began coughing harder and harder, and eventually, he started wheezing. I normally would’ve deferred to my wife on something like this, but she was out of town, so I decided to wait it out. When his breathing became progressively shallow, I drove him to the emergency room in the middle of the night. They told me that a virus had provoked a severe asthma attack.
My brain did it again. I was so frustrated. I had completed 7 months of a grueling treatment for a neurological disorder that had plagued me for several years. It wasn’t debilitating though. I just had these 20-second episodes where I couldn’t read or write, and sometimes it made it hard for me to speak.
It was our second year of marriage and my wife wanted me to cook — or else — and she wanted me to do it with a good attitude. That’s asking a lot. I don’t like cooking as it is, and I sure don’t like cooking when I feel like I’m being forced to do it. Raquel was pretty sick though, so I felt obligated to do it, rather than check out like I normally did when she was ill. That’s how I ended up standing over a pot of boiling water lowering raw chicken into it with a bad…
I stared at the TV and fought back tears while watching an interview with American missionaries Gracia and Martin Burnham, who were haggard, filthy and appeared to be disoriented.
So many times the same frustrating thing happens when I try to pray. “Heavenly Father,“ I say, but almost immediately I get interrupted by my own thoughts.
Two years ago, my wife hurt me worse than she ever had before. Her big offense: She said something that wasn’t very nice.