I have long adored Melody Ross’ artwork. Today I bonded with her writer’s heart as well. When I read this piece, an immediate email was sent to get permission to share with you. Which, she graciously agreed to. You will be blessed… http://melodyross.typepad.com/my_weblog/2012/02/what-love-isand-how-it-saved-my-marriage.html
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY…..I found this piece I had written 5 or so years ago……when in the middle of my husband’s brain injury recovery…..when my marriage was, for all practical purposes, completely vanishing….and in the nicest way I can say it…was a living hell. I am posting this because a few friends asked me to, and because of THIS POST that a cherished family friend wrote today that talks about my beautiful hard-earned marriage. I am being brave in posting this……but, I know that my miracle might be able to help someone else along. Marriage is HARD WORK. LOVE is HARD WORK. No work is more important than the work of love, however. If there’s a chance of making it, please don’t give up yet.
I hesitated to post this because I am not one to preach any specific religious philosophy. I believe that God loves us all fiercely. THIS, however, is essentially a journal entry that is so very personal, and I talk very personally about my relationship with Jesus Christ. This is deeply personal and outlines the way I was taught about WHAT LOVE IS by God…..and how it was able to save my marriage during the 6 years when my husband could not/did not feel love for me…when our whole life fell apart, and when I was fiercely lonely, angry and lost.
I am posting this for anyone who is trying to figure out how to love…what love is…and how to put something back together that seems like it can never be repaired. I am posting this because I know with every single cell in me that love can fix anything. I know it, because I have lived it over and over again, and I have dedicated my life to it, everywhere I go, for as long as I live.
What Love Is
by melody ross-written in 2007
I cry at a lot of weddings now, especially during the vows…for better or for worse…in sickness and in health…for richer or for poorer. I wonder to myself if the two lovesick people standing together have any idea what those vows might mean someday. I remember when I made mine and thought about how I was so in love that I could help my husband through any cold, I could even clean up his puke without flinching…I was sure that’s as bad as it could ever get. We were already poor, so I knew that wouldn’t matter.
When our life boiled down to being ‘for worse’, ‘in sickness’ and ‘for poorer’….all at the same time, that’s when I learned what love is.
I sometimes wonder if every marriage has one big test that is graded on the understanding and application of real, unconditional love. My guess is that most marriages have MANY of them, ranging in length and difficulty, and that marriage in itself is not only the schoolhouse but the test of real, unconditional, 100% charitable love…the ultimate test in putting your own needs, wants and desires behind those of your spouse. I also believe that the big reward for passing the test is the kind of marriage that happens because of it.
I remember asking Marq, more than a year after his accident, on a day that he could answer questions rationally, and completely ready to accept any answer that he was ready to give,
“Do you still love me?”
He looked over at me, and said in complete honesty but with very sad eyes,
“I know I should love you, but I can’t feel it.”
And I asked him what I could do to make him feel more in love with me. Could I change the way I do things? Did I need to change the way I look? What made him fall out of love with me?
He told me that there was nothing that I could do. I asked him if he could love someone else, if he felt like I was the wrong person for him now. He said he just could not feel love at all, and he was sure that if he could, he would love me.
And I told him that I would keep loving him, no matter what.
And this was at a time that I really meant it. I waited for many months to ask him that question in the first place, I had to be ready to hear a painful answer, and I was, because I had already decided what I would do if his answer was a ‘no’, in whatever form it came. I think what has surprised me most about this whole experience is the realization of what a powerful force LOVE has, and especially how much was missing in the definition that I used to have for what love is and that real love is not even possible without help from Heaven. Before all of this happened, I had fallen into the myth that marriage is a 50/50 proposition, if you give 50%, then I’ll give 50%, and then we’ll always be happy. Well, what happens if one partner or another cannot, for whatever reason, give 50%? What happens if your partner is TAKING 50%, leaving a deficit? That’s when you have to decide whether or not you are willing to give 150% to keep your marriage at 100%.
I went through a lot of different stages through it all. In the beginning, I had deep compassion and concern for Marq…and that never went away, but the resentment was what I had to battle. I was growing bitter over giving so much love and getting nothing in return except for grief. Selfishness had no place and absolutely no use in this situation, and I had to learn to rid myself of it, it was by far the hardest thing I have ever tried to do, and I finally learned that there was no way I could do it alone.
I called my oldest sister one day and told her that I was falling apart, that I had no idea how my marriage could ever survive this. I told her that there was no REASON for our marriage to survive this, that nothing good was coming from it, that it was only causing pain for all of us…I was worried about my children and I was worried about me…it didn’t seem like Marq was worried about any of it…he was just sleeping or raging. I was invisible to him most of the time. I didn’t feel like I had a marriage. I felt like I was a caretaker to someone who did not want to be cared for. My sister came to my house to pick me up and take me for a drive. We drove all around in the foothills, past farms and abandoned buildings, we just drove and drove. I told her how I felt. She listened.
She waited until I was completely done talking and then she put pulled over and put her hand on mine. “Do you remember your wedding day? …well I do. I remember seeing two young people who were more in love than anyone I have ever seen. I remember the way that you two could not let go of each other…and I especially remember Marq.” I sat quietly and listened, and my heart started to open a little… “When the ceremony was over and it was announced that the two of you were now married, Marq was drenched in tears, he could NOT stop crying…everyone kept coming up to congratulate the two of you and he would hug someone, then look over at you and just start crying again….it was the most beautiful thing, Melody….this is worth fighting for…”
She then went on to tell me that every marriage has a time when one or the other has to pray to God to feel great love for their spouse, to fall in love again…that God would bless my prayers and make it happen if I just asked him to help me feel the love for Marq that I did before all of this happened. I committed that I would go home and do this.
Feeling real love is not always full of bliss. In fact, I think the times in life that we feel the most pain are BECAUSE we love so deeply. When I asked God to help me to love Marq, it brought on a depth of sorrow that I hope I never have to endure again. But my prayer of feeling love for him was absolutely answered. Let me tell you what a day was like after that.
I tried to accept what happened, but then tried to focus on what I could do about it. My kids were my saving grace. I did NOT want them to sense how afraid I was…so, I would get up in the morning…..crawl over to Marq’s side of the bed where he was hollow and dead inside, kneel next to him, grab his hand as he slept….and pray, plead, beg…. Then the tears would start to flow, almost every day….because I still woke up every day in that half-awake of dawn and let myself believe that I’d just had a really bad nightmare and that this really wasn’t my life. When I would wake up all the way and realize that it really was my life, and there was my husband next to me with his soul and joy and peace and spirit captive….things were devastating. I really believed that if I would pray hard enough and long enough, that Marq would be healed. I got many answers that it was ‘not time yet’ and it made me so angry…so………then on the worst days, I would get into the shower and cry deep and uncontrollable sobs because I knew the water would drown out the sound of it and wash my tears down the drain with the shower water. I would give myself as long as I needed in the shower to sob….then I would tell myself that I could not let my children see me like that…that I had to be strong for them because they were scared too. I would get dressed, climb into my closet and pray again…and head downstairs with a smile on my face….because my kids always studied me, every morning for any sign of fear….they were really using me as a gage to make sure we were going to be ok. I would not let Marq come downstairs during those worst months…I did not want the kids to see him that way…I did not want them to ever think that he acted strange and mean and uncaring because he did not love them. I did not want them to judge HIM or see him any differently than the wonderful dad that they remembered. I wanted them to remember him the way he was before his accident….so I tried to make up for all of it by being VERY positive, very happy…never yelling, always encouraging…telling them everything was going to be ok….when I would get them off to school and get into my car, the crying would start up again…then I would cry all the way to work and think about how I had the exact same situation with my employees….they were waiting for me to fall apart…watching me the way my kids were….I had to instill them with confidence….I would pull into the parking lot and then pull myself together…fix my makeup…say outloud “I can do this…” then I would walk into the office with a smile on my face and greet everyone….lots of days I could only keep it up until I got into my office and shut the door…then the crying would start again and I would go into my office and pray that my husband would not put a bullet in his head today. I tried really really hard to not let anyone know how close I was to falling apart…I knew everything else would fall apart if I did and there was no one left to pick up all the pieces. So I remembered my wedding day, like my sister had asked me to…I think that’s one of the biggest things that got me through this… I was reminded that when I got married, I made a promise to my husband, but also to God. When it got so difficult to keep the promise of my marriage because I was only getting pain in return, I decided to keep the promise to God. I remember going to God, with bitter tears, telling him that I promised to give all that I had to my marriage and that my husband did not love me anymore. I told God that I would keep trying, because I promised that I would. I told Him that even if my promise did not mean anything to Marq at this time, that I knew that it meant something to Him.
When I would go to God with this, I would beg and plead at first for Marq to love me again, then simply for me to be able to love Marq. Through all of those months that turned into years, my prayers changed, my heart changed. I started to pray that I would know what kind of miraculous love it would take to save another human being, and I was taught about the pure love of Jesus Christ. He not only told me that His love would save Marq, but that it would also save me. I kept praying, I kept believing, I kept hoping.
When I did that, when I made that commitment, He put His arms around me and thanked me for taking care of his son, Marq, who could not take care of himself at that time and who God loved so very very much. I learned that marriage is so much a service to God…He is trying to give us this other person who will love us no matter what and always try to bless our lives…and that’s why we make the promise to Him too…because He loves us and wants us each to have a partner to help us through life. Marq had done that for me so much more than I had for him in all of the years before this hell took over our lives, but then he could not be that person to me anymore.
So I then decided to build a strong relationship with God because He was all that I had then, He sort of had to take that place that Marq left, of taking care of me…and because He needed me to bless Marq for Him….I understood then what REAL Christlike love was…that it was loving because LOVING IS A COMMANDMENT, not because you are ever going to get love back…not because marriage is a 50/50 deal….you do it because you promised that you would and because God needs to bless us through each other. You do it because God wants you to feel the most exquisite joy that is available to you, and the purest kind comes form loving others. AND…God healed ME through all of this , just like He said he would in all of those prayers. This was the time in my life when I knew for sure that I was giving everything that I had….I felt at peace with myself,. FINALLY…I felt completely loved by God, accepted, held…like I was enough….like He was very very proud of me, and I learned that He had been feeling that way all along and that sometimes it takes really difficult life circumstances to convince us to listen to what God is trying to say.
When I would pray, I would somehow, through miraculous feelings of peace and warmth and love, see myself in the way that the God who created me sees me. Then, He would show me the way He sees Marq, and how desperate He was to bless Marq out of the hell that he was in. He would fill me with feelings of unconditional love, acceptance, warmth, peace, happiness, hope and light. He would give me an enormous desire to share it all with Marq, and to love Marq in the way that God was loving me. These were and are feelings that I can not comprehend or explain, but that I KNOW were real, and I KNOW made a difference between wanting to die one minute and knowing that everything was going to be ok in the next. And I fell into a love so deeply with my husband that I can not even begin to describe or measure it’s depth.
I learned something very profound about love. I had been loving Marq all of these years in hopes that he could and would love me back. I loved Marq because of all of the ways that he made me whole. I was devastated when he was gone because I felt that he was the only person in the world who COULD make me whole. Through prayer, I found that in fact Jesus was the only person who could, and that I had been putting a lot of pressure on Marq for a lot of years to make me whole. I found through prayer that Jesus is the only person who could make Marq whole, and that even my suffering could not redeem him or heal him, but that the suffering of Jesus could. I learned that the only way that I would get through the pain was to surrender it to Jesus and to trust that He would turn it into something beautiful.
I learned about the most tremendous paradox of my life, that the most pure and incredible feelings that you will ever feel will not come from what is given to you, but from what you give to others. I learned that the most intense feelings of love somehow come back to us simply from the ACT of loving another human being, deeply, wholly and without a single string attached, expecting nothing in return. All of this time I had been doing all that I could to feel the love that I was needing and craving, and it was ALL found in the love that I had to give.
So learning about love came from having EVERY SINGLE THING stripped from me that I felt like brought me security…I was taken to a place where all that I had left was the love and confidence that God had for me….and in all of this I learned that it was all that I ever needed. So, now I know that hell can come against me and against my family and we will always have Heaven….and that Heaven visits you in sad bedrooms and in closets and on and long tearful drives just as fast as a visit to your perfect family home where all is peaceful and calm…I learned that angels keep vigils over those who are hurting….they watch over and protect families like mine who are trying every day to love each other no matter what. I learned that Jesus is the only way, and that all of His power comes in the form loving acts and words and messages, and we simply need to live our lives in His example.…and the longer my life goes, the more I see that there are thousands of things that don’t matter, and only a few things that do. I wish that we didn’t’ chase those thousands of things all of our lives when the few things that matter have always been right in front of us. The Savior walked through life in the service of others, because when He was helping others, He was glorifying, honoring and obeying the Father in Heaven that we share. It is all so simple…. LOVE others. REALLY LOVE them, do not expect anything in return, do not put conditions or rules on the love that you give…love because it is the right thing to do…love because Heavenly Father and the Savior need to bless others through you and through me…LOVE because that’s what you want most, and naturally, that’s what others want most. LOVE. Love yourself and love others, everything else good and right and true will come out of that loving…out of that action and discipline and intention to love. Just love…