....and oh, so highly appropriate to the day after Valentine's Day. A day when, if we are wise, we move on from romance and into the hard living of a life of love. Elisabeth Elliott is writing of a visit to the place where her husband was hospital chaplain, and the people they meet there:
We eat breakfast with Mr. Smith, a very handsome man with white hair, ruddy skin and bright blue eyes. He is wearing a blue shirt and blue sweater. He tells us a story which brings into sharp focus the words of the wedding vows--"in sickness and in health, for better, for worse." His wife has been a patient at Milledgeville for three years.
"When she first got sick I carried her everywhere. I did. The doctor said, 'She'll get worse, every week and every month. So if you want to go on any trips or anywhere, go now.' We had some good times, me and her. But the doctor said, 'You cain't stand it. You won't be able to stand it.' Well, I said, 'Ah'm'on' hang on long's I can.'
"I took care of her for five years, but I lost fifty-two pounds just from worry. I was so tense they broke three needles tryin' to put a shot in my arm. Well, I carried her to twenty-five doctors but they couldn't do nothin'. It's brain deter'ation, they told me. I did everything for her. I dressed her and fed her and everything, but it like to whup me and if it hadn't of been for the good Lord I'da never made it. Doctor said, 'I'da sworn you'd never last six months.' But a lot of people were prayin' for me. Oh yes. But finally I had to give up and put her here.
"She cain't do nothin.' Cain't move or speak or hear. She's in the prebirth position, legs and arms locked, heels locked up tight behind. You cain't straighten her out. But I come every other day. I go in and kiss her 'bout a dozen times, jes' love her to death. I talk to her. She don't hear, but she knows my touch.
"Well." Mr. Smith finished his story. "I work for the florist here. Volunteer work, you know. I go around the wards, carrying flowers."
We went later to see Mrs. Smith. If ever there was a sight to confound a man's love for a woman, to strain to the breaking point the most potent human passion, we saw it in that stark white crib--a crumpled scrap of inert humanity. But there is a love that is strong as death, a love many waters cannot quench, floods cannot drown.