After years of feeling constant pain and anguish, Alice could now feel nothing but pride surging through her ravaged body. Her Dylan was being publicly honored for his years of sacrifice for her. She allowed herself a few distant recollections …
That a Boyish Grin had swept her off her feet that first summer after she finished high school; the same Boyish Grin that had won her mother over as well; though dad was less convinced about his potential.
“In sickness and in health” had seemed little more than an afterthought with the hopes and dreams that filled their minds the day they were married.
If only …
For almost twenty years they had embodied a picture of family happiness, energy, health and fun until fatigue and dizziness began making more regular calls on Alice’s system. The Boyish Grin stayed upbeat, but her uneasiness increased as extra, unrelated pain also started making unexpected forays on her health and her morale.
“In sickness and in health.” These guerilla raids increased in scope and in strength, so her doctor prescribed tests “to be on the safe side.” But safety – and the Boyish Grin – quickly evaporated when the results revealed the relentless onset of multiple sclerosis: an invasion of her central nervous system that had no known cure!
In place of the Boyish Grin came devotion and tenderness that no one saw coming. A focus on sports and fun with the boys was sidelined by a commitment that kept tenderly rebuilding her dignity. Even when her increasing difficulty with walking was compounded by losing her bladder and bowel control, Dylan had set about knowing how to help with bags and catheters if problems arose while they were absent.
Her pride in Dylan suddenly deepened as a shadow swept across her mind. She briefly relived her shame at when she had lashed out at him, when the dreaded mental picture of becoming a human vegetable invaded her peace of mind. And when her prayers had not even reached as far as the ceiling; but now she knew better.
“Cometh the hour; cometh the man.” Dylan had delivered on a promise that now occupied center stage for the whole family. Doctors were increasingly impressed with his questions, his insights, and his sense of anticipation of coping with what may be just around the corner for Alice, though he had never tried to usurp their role.
Then Alice’s pride was suddenly infused with gratitude. For being blessed with those many years of happy and fulfilling family life, before her illness raised its ugly, unrelenting malice. Though the boyish grin had disappeared, Dylan was able to step up to a maturity that his father had been afraid to embrace - especially if he could escape with his personal dreams intact. Only this time he had taken up with a healthy, more glamorous doll who could share them with him.
Which was why today Dylan was being offered a medical scholarship, with the backing of all the local doctors, and with his first three years being underwritten by a national pharmaceuticals company.
“In sickness and in health.” Alice knew, as mothers know more instinctively than most, that God had fulfilled a wedding vow by bridging a generation. And that her Dylan’s intended medical studies would be so well-grounded in the reality of pain; on its wider effects on patients’ families; and on the power of God’s love to bring people together to face their crises.
All worth a lot more than regrets over a missing Boyish Grin.
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