The other day I was giving an acupuncture treatment to a woman in her mid 40’s and as we talked she mentioned that she was experiencing a lot of stress with her marriage and that she was seriously considering divorce. I inquired further as to why she wanted a divorce and her reasons did not seem to me to be significant enough to warrant breaking apart a family.
In comparison that same evening I was moved by an article that talked of the devotion of one man to his wife. An 80-year-old woman with advanced colon cancer was being admitted to the ICU in acute respiratory distress. The physician on call recognized that the woman was dying. Her husband, an old man with deeply wrinkled face and a back so badly bent that he had to crane his neck to look straight ahead, when he heard the prognosis insisted that the doctor save his wife. I want you to do everything, he said. I want her to live, even if only for a few more days. I can’t live without her. The doctor reluctantly consented to the husbands wish and had the woman incubated and admitted to ICU. The next day on returning to the hospital the physician found that the husband had not left his wife’s side. The doctor persuaded the elderly man to come with him to the cafeteria for some food. While sitting together he related how he and his wife had been married for over 60 years and had lived in Eastern Europe. He had been a painter/she, a pianist. They led a frugal but happy life. During the war, the Nazis captured and separated them, and forced them to work in labor camps. She made ammunition at a factory near Stuttgart, while he did odd jobs with a roving band of soldiers. They lived apart for over two years. “That was the most difficult time of my life,” the old man said, his eyes brimming with tears. “I didn’t care that it was always cold, that I was always hungry, that I had to do menial jobs. All I cared for was my wife and how she was. Her beautiful soft hands, which had so gently played the piano, were forced to make bombs that killed thousands. She suffered so much, and I couldn’t do anything to protect her. I vowed then that If I ever got her back, I would never let go.” His wife died 3 days later. Her devoted husband barely moved from her side during the 5 days she was in ICU. A couple of weeks later the husband was found lying in his bed, clutching a picture of his wife. It is so easy to take for granted our partner in life. This old man is a great example of the value of true love and devotion.