Yesterday, I received a letter from one of my Mission Partners. Jane and Bill. I had met them this summer. They are members of my home parish and they reached out to me after I spoke about FOCUS at a Sunday mass.
I have only met with them once, but it is a meeting I hold, very, very close to my heart. They invited me to their home and upon entrance, they greeted me with two genuine, tight hugs. The kind of hug you receive from family, from life long friends, from people who truly care about your heart.
In our meeting I asked about how they met, and Bill lit up. As if he prayed to be asked this question every day of his life. I was so taken aback by their love that I started to write it down. They laughed about the fact that someone would care so much about their story, but I knew the Holy Spirit was giving me a glimpse of something very rare.
“I’ve had her for 45 years. We’ve been through everything, raising 4 children, starting a business together, and even fighting through triple bypass surgery.”
I asked him what the best part of his marriage was and he said,
“Getting to end the day in prayer together. And being able to take that time to thank God for her.”
The love these two shared wrecked my heart. All I thought was, “I want this”.
As I opened the letter I could feel the Lord telling me to prepare my heart. It was a letter from Jane. She began with wishing me well in New York and telling me that she has been praying for the mission of FOCUS. Then she gently transitioned to the real reason for her letter.
Bill has just passed away from a massive stroke.
I was instantly taken back to his smile when he looked at her. And her smile back.
She said that she was so thankful that his earthy suffering was over, and she knows he is with our Lord, but, “it still hurts so much”.
I was moved. Truly moved. The kind of “moved “ that hits your heart and causes you to sit down because the blow was that powerful. Her honesty. Her strength. I could feel her pain. But I could also feel her trust in our Lord.
The letter was very short, as if there were no longer words that would do.
I found myself crying in my room, alone with the Lord. And in a strange way, that letter, my tears, her strength, all turned into a prayer. A prayer that I, too, experience this kind of suffering if I am called to marriage. That sounds counter cultural, I suppose. Who PRAYS to experience suffering? Well, me.
Without suffering, there is no love. I want to love my spouse in such a way that it will hurt if he is the first one to pass. I want to pray with him each night before we fall asleep. I want to be the one who points him to a chapel when the world knocks him down, because I know it’s not me he needs, it’s the Lord.
I read a beautiful article the other day about finding a spouse you can “suffer well with”. I instantly thought of Jane and Bill and their beautiful witness.
Life is FULL of suffering. Marriage is full of suffering. You will never get around that. But you can marry someone who will stand with you in the midst of it all.
“Who do you want sitting next to you when the tests say Cancer? Who do you want up with you at 4am when your children are throwing up? When your world turns upside down, in whose eyes do you want to look?”
I pray that we all get to experience the kind of love Jane and Bill shared. The kind that was heartwarming, gut wrenchingly painful, full of beauty, full of suffering, and always, always, always pointing back to Christ.