Just Dessert

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They were married more than 50 years, had three grown children and two grandchildren. He remembered every one of those years to his final hour, but Parkinson’s disease and a debilitating stroke erased her memory long before it claimed her body.

The stroke altered her personality and severely limited her physically, but her husband cared for her every day. He bathed and dressed her, combed her hair, and fed her in the place she most wanted to be: their home. Their children did all they could, but he was most comfortable when he was her chief caregiver, and so was she.

He talked to her. Held her hand. Drove her to the beauty parlor and cooked her favorite foods. Her looks and nature had changed greatly, but he never wavered. He never kept score. He lived with her moment by moment, and in any given moment, in his eyes, the slate was fresh and clean.

On one of their last Thanksgivings, they had dinner in the home of their two daughters, who had made the table as pretty as they could—and as uncluttered and spill proof as their mother needed. Their father helped her with her food, as he had done for some time. After dinner, the daughters cleared the table for coffee and dessert. When they served the pie, she ineptly tumbled her slice off her plate and onto the table. She tried to eat it off the tablecloth.

Brushing aside his daughters’ attempts to set things right, he smiled and slid his own dessert onto the table, patted her hand, and topped both of their pie slices with big dollops of whipped cream. They finished their desserts together.

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The thing which keeps life romantic and full of fiery possibilities is the existence of these great plain limitations, which force all of us to meet the things we do not like or do not expect.”

This husband never expected to have an invalid wife for nearly 15 years. He never foresaw losing the ability to converse and reminisce with her. No doubt some days he did not like it. But he never quit. And he never complained.

“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have . . . puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end” (1 Cor. 13, The Message).

We cannot know if we have the “stuff” to truly love until we meet the moment that calls for it. But we have the example we need if we ever hope to triumph: We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19, NASB).

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