The answers were unexpected and sometimes heartbreakingly simple.
I asked five women about their fondest memory. No one wanted to recall just one; that was warming, as was the realization that the qualities they admired were being shown both in humdrum hours and in extremis.
Here are five joyous memories which each woman thanked me for the opportunity to recall. I will have to ask them about the good moments more often. Things like this should be regularly savored.
He Romances Me
Deidre has a husband who is aging, slowing, sleeping more. And yet, he’s still romancing, greeting her several times a day with a hug and kiss.
“Hello you good looking, good feeling, sexy hunk of woman!”
She says that after nearly 40 years together she has become his caregiver.
Yet still he hugs her as she passes.
“Um … um you feel so good, and you are beautiful.”
It’s become a ritual she cherishes repeatedly, whenever she passes him or serves a meal. There are many good days left, and she treasures each one, calling them “golden moments”, to be remembered.
He Gave Me Space to Grieve and Get Myself Back Together
Jo told me her man makes her feel that nothing is more important than she is. And she believes people make choices to be in a relationship, for better or worse. “The sun does not always shine,” she reminded me. And she told me this: “When you feel your partner has your back and you can you can count on each other when needed, you feel strong and loved.”
A few months ago, bad news arrived. Jo had to make a quick trip overseas when her father’s unexpected illness began to overwhelm him. Their brief last hours together passed, and soon enough she returned to children and partner. But of course, things were no longer the same.
“After my Dad died, I had a hard time just dealing with daily life.” Jo recalls. She says her mood and reactions were a daily challenge for others to deal with. But her man was very supportive, being close when she wanted it and letting her have space when she needed it.
“After a while I felt “better”; his response when I did meant the world to me.”
Ooh Jo, you are back! ”
He showed me he respected me, and he gave me space to sort my feelings. I think that’s what it’s all about.”
He Showed Me Calmness, Sympathy, Understanding and Patience
Carol said she discovered a lot about herself over the last six months, while fighting cancer and submitting to debasing and often grueling treatments. She’s had amazing highs and depressing lows.
“I won’t mention the levels of bitchiness to which I could sink on occasion.”
Her husband isn’t well. He is legally blind and has heart disease that could claim his life at any moment. But Carol says he has shown more calmness, sympathy, understanding and patience than she ever thought he could.
Naturally, he is sad at the thought of life without her, yet resists showing it, determined to be as supporting and encouraging as he can.
“The methods he uses are laughter and love. He will find something funny in the least thing – and share it with me. A huge bear hug when I am miserably looking in the mirror at my hairless head and lack of eyebrows and lashes; A silent hug in the middle of the night when, unable to go back to sleep, I cried in fear and pain.”
Any number of statistics can be found that show many marriages failing when one partner becomes seriously ill. But Carol’s husband raises her spirits by telling her she is beautiful … as she huddles in layers of heavy clothing, constantly cold due to the Chemo.
“Our marriage has become stronger. He gave me that.”
He Loves Me Unconditionally
Paula says her husband accepts her completely for who she is, and loves her unconditionally. She told me she thinks he’ll move heaven and earth to do whatever it takes to make her feel cherished and loved.
Wryly, Paula admits she is not easy to be with, listing depression, and low self-esteem as two of her demons.
But she appreciates his hugs and caring words, even if, moody, she is not ready to hear them at times.
“I have the luxury of knowing that he will catch me if I should fall, dry my tears when I cry, applaud me when I do well, encourage me when I feel hopeless, and always be my very best friend in the world. He makes me a better person.”
The Final Word
Rose has a great one-line answer about the worth of husbands: