I remember standing in her bedroom and she was making her bed and talking to me. I was probably in middle school the first time–of many times–I would hear her say it. I don’t remember what ignited the conversation, but my mother shared wise words that I would never forget.
“You know, they say that marriage is fifty-fifty. He gives fifty percent, you give fifty percent. But you need to know that marriage isn’t always fifty-fifty. Sometimes, it’s ninety-ten; he’s giving ten because he’s going through a lot, so you compensate by giving ninety percent. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. You’re struggling, so you can only give thirty percent. If you marry right, he will give the seventy percent. Marry someone who will always give that extra, if need be.”
And I did marry well, partially in thanks to her wise words. There have been times, even recently, that he could only give so much. So, I stepped up and gave extra. It was hard and it hurt, but I compensated for him as he struggled. But recently, I’ve struggled greatly. For the last five months, my heart has been torn in so many directions. First, between my sweet sick father and my own family. Part of my heart was in Birmingham with my dad and mom as we struggled through a sudden and terrible illness. There was a roller coaster of hope then complication, and the emotional ups and downs were taking a toll on us all. Then, despite rallying, I was called home one cold December night. And in the next 24 hours, my life fell apart as my dad went to be with Jesus. Then the grieving. Oh the searing pain, the sudden triggers. The constant drive to “keep it together” for the sake of the children.
It’s been so hard. I have not been great at meal planning or making; the housework suffered as I flew back and forth for over two months. Only through the help of others did the homeschooling barely stay on track. There are moments I am not my best self; I snap and yell, I get overwhelmed and I cry. I worry about my mom and wish I could be closer to help her through this. My heart aches for my five brothers and sisters, knowing they are carrying this deep pain as well.
I’ve not been my best self.
But he has compensated.
My husband drove me to the airport in an hour’s notice so I could go be with my family for the second of what would be five trips. He watched and schooled our four children, scrubbed the house, and pulled off Halloween all so I could go be with my family. He helped me pack three times when we thought it was Dad’s time, only to find out that he’d miraculously pulled through. Again. My husband drove out with me for Thanksgiving with our children and watched them alone while I drove back and forth from the hospital during the greatest week Dad had. Though the many complications had taken their toll, he was sitting up, doing physical therapy, and talking. Oh what a sweet blessing in light of what would come two weeks later. My husband snagged what would be the last picture with my dad and his grandchildren. I had no idea until we got home.
When the call came to come home, my husband helped me find a flight from work, encouraged me to get out that night, and kept vigil at home with our children so I could stand and pray with my siblings and mother in our darkest hours. He kept vigil at home, praying unceasingly, until it was time for him to come. He then drove two days with four children alone to come stand at my side as we laid my father to rest.
He has patiently endured my uglier moments, tempered me when I snap at the children, and has forgiven me when he takes the brunt of my grief. I am not proud of those moments, and I’ve tried to avoid them. But grief is quiet and sneaky; it consumes us in a second and suddenly we are not our best selves. He has loved me anyway. He has brought home dinner, helped with cleaning the house. He has left me vulnerable voicemails and held me as I fell apart. Again. He has respected the purposefully empty calendar, and understood my need for quiet and home. More than all of that, he has wept unashamedly with me. We have held each other and cried multiple times during the nightmare of the last five months.
Just like any other couple, we’ve had seasons of struggle. We’ve had times of suddenly seeing our glaring flaws and having to take the time and pain of fixing them. This man, my husband, has stood by me in my darkest hours and become my greatest hero. As I’ve struggled to give much lately, he has over-compensated in our marriage and family. He has grown and learned and loved more each day. He begrudged me nothing as I endured the final weeks of my father’s life. He has picked up where I could not provide and did my work with much love. I know it was a lot on him, on top of his full time job. I am sure it was exhausting. Yet he never complained. He just worked harder.
I am not sure I’ll ever be able to make him fully comprehend how grateful I am for all he’s given me these last few months. The extra time with my dad, my mom, my siblings. The encouragement to keep going. The love to keep me standing. The work to keep our house and family afloat. Those sweet moments next to my dad’s bedside at Thanksgiving, when I got my final pep talk. The final hours, when I was able to tell my dad, just one more time, how much I loved him–and get that last nod before he went to Jesus.
That’s love–learning from our mistakes, fixing our flaws. Loving more, encouraging more. Praying harder, working harder. Even if it hurts. Doing it all because it hurts. It’s giving, as my mom has always said, that extra percent when the other person can barely give at all.
And oh my husband has given, continues to give. He is a good, loving man. And I’m so blessed by his extra percent and that big heart.