That's What Love Is
I had returned from my daily visit to the hospital. I don’t remember how long she had been there at this point. Altogether she was hospitalized for about seven weeks. It was mid-week, so I had school the next morning. It had become my practice since Carol was in the hospital, to stay at school after the students were gone and do all my preparation for the next day. That way I could have some time with my girls, have dinner, and visit Carol without coming home to papers to correct and lessons to plan.
Carol’s parents were staying with us, so they had watched the girls for the evening and gotten them ready for bed. About 11:00, as I was finally getting into bed, my oldest daughter, Carol Anne, came to my room saying that her tummy hurt. I invited her to lie on my bed for a while. She had barely settled down when she suddenly wretched and threw up. Within about three seconds the sheets and the floor were covered in vomit, and the air turned putrid. It didn’t last long. Her stomach was soon empty. By the time I got her cleaned up, she felt much better, returned to her bed, and slept peacefully the rest of the night.
We did not have spare sheets or blankets, so I commenced to strip the bed and do a load of wash. All was calm when I eventually slipped between clean sheets and turned out the light. Sleep came quickly.
Sometime later I awakened to the sound of crying. I rose quickly and headed to the girls’ room. I did not want my in-laws to have to get up in the night. They had enough to do during the days when I was at work. Walking into the girls’ bedroom I spotted Cindy, the youngest, pulling herself up in the crib. As she got to her feet, her head just high enough to look over the rail, her crying was interrupted by the rush of her stomach contents. While she didn’t shoot out across the room, she did leave a fine mess down the side of the crib and on the floor. Another cleanup job was before me.
As I lifted her from the crib I realized that something more had also happened. I did a quick check and discovered the largest, most repulsive mess ever encountered in a toddler’s diaper. By now it was hard to breathe. Carol Anne was still asleep, and middle sister Christy slept quietly, blissfully unaware of either of her sisters’ experiences. Cindy, once she was cleaned up and re-diapered, was feeling fine and ready to join her them in slumber. Placing her in my bed, I returned to the cleanup job at the crib.
While going about this task, I realized that I was singing (in my head, not out loud) a little chorus that was common among my Christian friends. It was mostly a repetition of the line, “Thank You, Jesus.” Almost breaking out in laughter at the experience of cleaning up vomit while repeating this simple line, two things became very clear to me. First, I truly did have much to be thankful for. Second, what I was doing at that moment, and what I had done earlier that night, was loving my wife and my children.
Love is often tied to our emotions, but love itself is not an emotion. Love is something you choose to do. God chose to love us. We choose to love Him. We choose to love others. We show that love by what we do, even when we don’t feel the giddy, heart pounding, or sentimental emotions that we associate with love. That night I chose to love my wife by taking care of our children when she was physically unable to do so. I chose to love my children by doing what was needed. Perhaps you could say that I simply had to. I was just doing my duty. But that would not be quite right. If I had hated doing it, or had done it grudgingly, then it would have just been my duty. What I discovered was that I didn’t hate doing it; it was a privilege.
In the midst of being tired, and repulsed by the nature of the tasks, I also found an emotional reward. My heart was filled with gratitude and joy. God had given me a wonderful lady. She and God together had given my three treasured daughters. How could I not be grateful for this wife and these children? And how could I not find joy in this opportunity to love them?