“Come on Mr. Frodo…I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go”. ~Sam to Frodo on the slopes of Mt. Doom
“I take thee to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish and to obey till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and there until I give my troth.” ~Book of Common Prayer, 1662
When we got married twenty-three years ago, these seemed like beautiful words, but only words to be spoken as part of a ceremony. I know that sounds a bit odd, but we were only twenty-two at the time and it felt like we had this thing called life all figured out. Up to this point, our relationship had been nothing but bliss; we enjoyed each other’s company, we shared so many interests that it seems impossible, standing at that altar, that we should have a disagreement, let alone strife in our marriage. A whole life lay ahead and we knew that it would be favorable. Ah, to be a naive twenty-something again. To feel that I have this thing called life all figured out and to be peering at it through rose-colored glasses!
Ah, to be a naive twenty-something again. To feel that I have this thing called life all figure out and to be peering at it through rose-colored glasses!
Since getting married we have endured poverty, the stress of having three kids way to close together, deployments, TDY orders, living in separate states for three years, and all the other craziness that accompanies a healthy marital relationship. Yes, we have had knock down, drag out fights. We have gone to bed hating the sight of the other. We have disagreed on almost everything and some days even our common interests were not enough to bridge the gap caused by anger and resentment. Yet, somehow, we have survived and have been made even stronger for the experience; however, this journey with cancer has made me look at our marriage in a whole new way.
In many ways, our story bears a remarkable resemblance to the friendship between Frodo and Sam. At the lowest point in his journey, Frodo discovered that he could no longer carry his burden on his own. It was slowly consuming all of him; weighing him down to the point of despair. He had come so far and was standing at the base of Mt. Doom, the journey was almost over and he was stumbling at the finish line. Weary and overtaken by evil, Frodo was ready to surrender all at the foot of the mountain. Thankfully, that was not to be the end of the story; Frodo had a steadfast companion with him who was not ready to give up. This companion had sworn a promise to see Frodo through no matter what might happen. He promised to hold Frodo up and be there when he fell and he took his oath seriously. Standing at the foot of the mountain, exhausted and overwhelmed, Sam made a vow:
“I’ll get you there, if I leave everything but my bones behind…And I’ll carry Mr. Frodo up myself, if it breaks my back and heart” (Tolkien 918).
Frodo was not left alone and abandoned. He was not alone in his fight against the evil that oppressed him on all sides, he had Sam to hold him and make sure that the journey was completed, no matter the cost. This is where I find, yet again, a kinship with Frodo. God did not leave me to do this life alone, he gave me a Sam to stand by my side through thick and thin. A Sam to carry me when the going became more than I could withstand. A companion who would not abandon me when life was at its lowest, but one who would stand by my side and fight right along with me.
After the laparotomy, I could not move without assistance. In order to perform the surgery, the doctor had to make an incision from the base of my rib cage to the top of the pelvic bone. He cut through skin, fat, and, yes believe it or not, muscle to get at the organs that needed to be removed. I had large portions of the large and small bowel removed. The liver was aggressively resected and left with a cumbersome drainage tube, and everything, I mean everything, just hurt. Guess I just took it for granted that all movement comes out of those core abdominal muscles because even the most menial of movement caused immense amounts of pain those first few days post-surgery. For the first time in my life, I found that I was unable to do the most basic acts of self-care and I had to rely on those around me to help to get me out of bed, help me to stand, and even get me to the bathroom. Talk about a humbling experience!
God did not leave me to do this life alone, he gave me a Sam to stand by my side through thick and thin. A Sam to carry me when the going became more than I could withstand…one who would stand by my side and fight right along with me.
During this time my husband, with a total disregard for himself, stepped up and helped me. He willingly slept in a chair for almost a week. He would wake up several times a night to get me out of bed and to the bathroom. This is what touched my heart the most. To get me out of bed required that he bend over the side of the bed, let me grab around his shoulders, and lift me to a sitting position, then out of the bed. We had to do the same thing in reverse to get me back into bed with the addition of lifting me up into a sitting position that conformed with the contour of the hospital bed. He did this several times a day until one time he finally threw his back out bending over the top of the bed to pull me up. He never once complained. Here I was, completely helpless, and he my willing helpmeet..words are just not adequate to describe what this meant to me. Just like Frodo, I had someone who was willing to say:
“…I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get…just tell him where to go, and he’ll go” (Tolkien 919).
I have never felt so loved and protected in my life. I watched my husband willingly sacrifice himself to make sure I had what I needed. I watched him work through his own pain to make sure he lessened mine. He gave of himself in ways I had never experienced before in our marriage and it melted my heart.
Twenty-three years ago my husband, much like Sam, made a promise to carry me no matter what and his actions demonstrated a commitment to that promise (Tolkien 919). He sat by my side through a week in the hospital, cheered me on as I got up to walk the hospital ward, took great pains to see me brought home to Virginia from Louisiana with as much comfort as possible, took almost a month off of work to be by my side both during the surgery and when we returned home. Having cancer has put our marriage vows to the test in ways I never thought possible and my husband has made good on his promise, inclining my heart toward him more than ever before. God truly sent me a good man and I will be forever grateful.
Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Return of the King: The LORD OF THE RINGS Part Three. Houghton: Boston. 1994. Print.