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Unwashed Shirt
by Marie Agustin
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Unwashed Shirt

When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband Romeo went to Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, to take up his Masters study in Structural Engineering. This was the opportunity he grabbed as the offer granted him full scholarship – from round trip ticket, to dormitory accommodation, bursary, tuition fees, and pocket allowance. All he had to do was study very well. This was his portion under the sun. That was 1987.

As a young married couple at that time, Romeo had to leave me under the care of his loving mom, which means that we got married without our own house and with small savings enough to pay for the birth of my first baby.

Like any other responsible mom-in-law, she took care of me as if I am her real daughter. Left in the world of in-laws, my source of security was the unwashed shirt Romeo left before he went to Thailand. I kept it under my pillow and smelled it every night, and imagined that he is just beside me. For those of you who are married for several years and have been sleeping with your spouse on the same bed, you could relate. The scent of him made me secure and safe. His shirt cradled me to sleep.

Fast track the story 22 years and you could see a man - gray haired, medium-built, serious looking, introvert, thoughtful. His back had developed strong muscles that made it hard for me to soften. His concept of life – the value of hard work, frugality and integrity created a positive mark wherever he lived and worked. His humble work ethics enabled him to work for 22 wonderful years, in different companies, and in different parts of the world. His default to provide for the needs of his family could only be surpassed by God. Yes, for me, he is one of the best examples of how Christ loves His Church. He is willing to give his life just so that his wife and his four children would come into the knowledge and grace of God, who provides all things. Romeo did not spoil us. Romeo taught us, by his example, that everything is given by God’s grace. Only by God’s grace.

You see, Romeo is a very humble man. His fear of the unknown always leads him to the foot of the Cross of Christ. On the night before our wedding, 22 years ago, he knelt on the floor of his room, and asked God for grace and wisdom - on how to be a good husband, a father, and a family man. This habit of kneeling before God became the norm every time there were challenges on our way. That is why I often tell my children, “A man is not a real man unless he is humble enough to admit he cannot do it and only God can do it. A man is not a real man unless he knows how to pray to God and ask for help, grace and mercy.”

As any other normal marriages, ours have bumps and bruises. Built with type A personalities, Romeo and I would sometimes exchange views and discuss issues with different voice tones – mine was high pitched while his was stressed low tone with sighs of resignations. We often discuss about finances as he is a saver and I WAS a spender. The material assets that were built and entrusted to us in those 22 years, he initiated those and I was just on the sideline. There was no wisdom on my part at that time. Not yet. I just submitted.

Today, Romeo is celebrating his 45th birthday. I do not have enough money to pay for the balance of our house mortgage, although that would be one of the nice birthday gifts for him. It could ease him up a bit as there would be one less financial concern on his shoulder. I’ve develop financial plans for all our financial goals and concerns and we are on our journey fulfilling those. As his wife who is working within the financial industry, financial planning is one of the best things that ever happened in our marriage. Had I known that this was the formula, I could have gotten this job 22 years ago. It saved our marriage and it developed in me an appreciation that Romeo is a faithful steward of God’s material blessings all those years of our marriage.

So what could I offer him on his birthday?

I could only offer him for the rest of my life – my respect, my love, my submission, my patience, my understanding – my ME. Romeo is a wonderful man. He is awesome - a work of God to behold. He is God’s work-in-progress. And as for the unwashed shirt, every night, as we lie down in bed to sleep, I still smell the shirt he is wearing, kiss his back several times, and say a prayer to God:

“Lord, all these years, you have given me this gift of companionship with Romeo. He is the best husband a wife could ever have. I praise you and thank you for this gift. I will cherish Him for the rest of my life. I will love him for better or for worse, in richer and in poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Gloria Laroza T. 28 Sep 2008
Love between husband and wife far outweighs any material blessings, but far greater still is the love of God- unconditional and never changing. Thanks for sharing your testimony of love to your husband. What a great example of dedicated Christian couple! Blessings, Gloria
Joanne Sher  27 Sep 2008
This is a lovely tribute to 22 years of marriage, and a wonderful husband. Praying his birthday is a blessing.


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