Love for a lifetime

By Pegi Bricker

Since around Mother’s Day, I have been in the worst multiple sclerosis relapse I’ve experienced over the past 19 years of living with this MonSter.

I was in a wheelchair, couldn’t drive, became incontinent, confused, sometimes lost in my own home and very frequently lost in mid-sentence. Daisy Duck would have accurately pegged me as a “messy mess.”

I have decided to get to the good stuff in relaying the love story between The Saint and me. When I said my vows for better or worse, for richer or for poor, in sickness and in health, I am certain I was thinking about Pegi and how Pegi would be caring for and tolerating Clarence, not about how he was going to tolerate me and care for me. I entered that covenant completely clueless. But God…

A song that is part of the newest wave of contemporary Christian worship music sung in many churches now is “Goodness of God.” I’ll sing a little now for you. I’d ask you to close your eyes while I do this to set the mood, but well, that isn’t going to work out for you. If I were actually singing this, you would be better served to put in earplugs, those super duper types they have in the MRI suite at Schneck.

Singing now: “All my life, you have been faithful. All my life, you have been so, so good. With every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God. I’ve known you as a father. I’ve known you as a friend, and I have lived in the goodness of God.” Never has a truer song been composed that describes my life not only with my Abba God but with my beloved saint, Clarence.

I write a lot of letters, sometimes several in one day, sometimes not so much. One of my favorite types of letters is birthday greetings, especially to kids. I give unsolicited advice hoping it is received in all of the love of my intentions.

It is said that the road to hell is lined with good intentions, but really, my hope is that I would save them from perhaps just a little bit of said hell on earth by sharing a thought or two gleaned from my many years of errors, missteps, mistakes and my self-centered life experiences.

1 Corinthians 13 is a letter to me from my big brother, Paul. It isn’t just a list of what to do or even a nice passage to read at weddings. The love chapter in the Bible to me reveals the very nature of the Lord by telling me what love is, how love behaves and more importantly, what love is not.

This is what I am learning about Abba father. He isn’t a bumper sticker motto “God is love.” He isn’t a fairy tale or fable. He is god. He is love. There are so many types of love, such as sexual, friendly and familiarity, but God is agape love. He is 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians 13 is God’s agape love for us. Agape love is unconditional, as it gives without ever expecting any recompense.

Back to Saint Clarence, he is the goodness of God to me. He always has been from the moment we met, through our Army years, throughout our years as parents and especially through these past 19 years of disease, heartache and struggle. I thank God for those years, every 34 of them.

I am thankful for disease and all of the nastiness this world and my own sin has thrown at me because I can look back and say, “But God.” Look what God did? Look, there he was carrying me. Look, that didn’t matter as much as this should have mattered.

I can’t go back, but I can glance back if only briefly to find more mountain-moving faith to move even bigger mountains. I mean those really big mountains of fear, self-doubt, pride, aloneness. Yes, God was good to me all of my life, including my childhood and youth, but this needs to be more brief than all that herstory.

Love (God) is patient; Clarence waits by the door, by the pause in my thoughts searching for a word, by my current emotional storm. He waits for me. He is the definition of long-suffering.

Love (God) is kind; Clarence smiles when I say mixed up things, have overreactions, don’t feel like I can cook his dinner. He is not just being nice. He is genuinely generous and sincere in everything we have experienced over the years.

Love (God) does not envy; The Saint has never uttered a thought in the direction of being envious of other men with healthier, thinner, longer legged or more loving wives. I’ve never caught him ogling another man’s woman, ever. In fact, it is me who says, “Wow! Look at the beautiful lady.”

Love (God) does not brag or act arrogantly; Clarence doesn’t brag, although I fantasize about overhearing him boast about my looks, talents or even how shiny our bathtub and his toothbrush cup is or those great blackberry cobblers. He certainly doesn’t act rudely or cocky. I am not talking flatulence, crop dusting or audible belching here, just so we all understand each other. While my man is almost perfect with a capital P, he is in fact a man, a bald and very hairy man and all that can entail.

Love (God) is not easily provoked, doesn’t keep track of my wrongdoings and does not seek out his own good. I’ve lost it. I’ve lost it a lot as my emotions usually are all over the place at least four times in any given minute. But my Fuzzy Bear, he knows that this too shall pass; the temper flares, the obsessive behaviors, the constant cleaning binges, the sadness and most of all, my grandiose ideas. For his birthday this past 13th, he took me out to eat where I wanted, let me order for both of us and then smiled when I couldn’t eat. Yes, my honeypot doesn’t ever seek his own with food, music or even the remote.

Back to those letters I scribe, so often I say, “Don’t waste time concerning yourself with what others think about you, but do spend time asking Abba God what he thinks. And then get into your word and listen to what he says.” I also talk to them about who they say Jesus is knowing how they answer will give them glimmers of their own identity.

Oh, and I don’t usually tell others more of my viewpoints, but I mostly likely should.

1. Bad times, make your good times way better, so be thankful.

2. Hang in there. Someday, you’ll be old and you’ll have your own unasked-for opinions to toss out.

3. Best of all, pen pals can make really good husbands.