“In Sickness and in Health”


Fifty years ago this coming June, I served as a bridesmaid for the marriage of my closest college friend. She and her fiance had met in college so I knew them both very well. The marriage was a time of rejoicing and, on my end, a little envy since I had yet to find a suitable match. They had two daughters two years older and two years younger than my daughter, but lost a son in between when he died in utero. They both had successful teaching careers, dedicating themselves to urban high schools and teacher preparation programs. They bought a lovely home and welcomed me into it many times when I was in their area to visit.

My friend’s mom had early onset Alzheimer’s and my friend and I tended to her one week while her dad took a well earned break. I witnessed a woman I knew losing speech, memory and eventually motor skills. It was sobering and I admired her husband for his devotion to his wife. Neither my friend nor I could imagine such a life for ourselves.

Fifteen years ago the troubling symptoms, mainly personality changes, appearing in my friend led to her diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s, now known to be genetically linked. For a number of years her husband was able to let her stay at home with family caretakers helping him. Eventually he found a safe home for her to live in and moved to the town near by. He visits her daily, loves her intensely, and remains faithful to her in all ways. He lives out the promise made before me and others all those years ago to be her “loving and faithful husband..in sickness and in health.”

We know so very little when we make those promises to each other, especially if we are young and healthy. When we said our vows I think many of us focused on the “plenty,” “joy,” and “health” conditions rather than the “want,” “sorrow,” and “sickness.” May we all have the strength and courage to remain true to our spouse no matter what. I look at my friend’s father and her husband and know it can be done.



23 thoughts on ““In Sickness and in Health”

      1. I’m so glad I saw your post. A force does matter, this force, in a marriage. I’ve come to believe in it wholeheartedly, even though it can be hard to describe. It is real. Thank you. Hugs.


  1. Both my mother and my mother-in-law took care of spouses through long-term conditions – Parkinson’s for Dad and Alzheimers for my father-in-law. I sometimes think younger people have no idea what true love is until they’ve encountered this example.


    1. I agree that we need these examples to encourage us when the time comes. My stepchildren’s grandfather had Alzheimer’s and his wife put him in a home and then lived with another man because “she was entitled to a life too.” This is another example for children, not one I find comforting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done to your friend’s husband. So many people just cannot cope with such tragedies. I saw evidence of this kind of thing every day, when I was an EMT. My conclusion was that the disease takes everyone, including the close family of those diagnosed with it.
    Loyalty is rarely included in wedding vows. It should be, perhaps, as it is the most important word in a relationship, after love.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  3. Having failed at marriage once I feel a degree of expertise in this area ! You are right if there is happiness, health and wealth these things tend to manage to take care of themselves very easily. It is in times of troubles that we discover what love is, and it is often the only thing which can help us at those times


  4. This is touching. I miss your posts Elizabeth. I don’t know happened to my email. I don’t receive emails from all the sites I’m subscribed to.

    Anyways, thanks for sharing


  5. That was beautifully written, Elizabeth. We’ve had only one relative with declining mental ability. His was caused by strokes, and he had to be in a nursing home for physical reasons. He was well cared for, and his wife visited him every day until he died. Loyalty is amazing.


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