From A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

True Intimacy

Love cures people—both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.

Karl Menninger

After two twelve-hour surgeries in seven days to rebuild my degenerating spine, all I remember is pain. The maxi-mumpainmedications barely dentedmy agony and, inmy daze, I thought surely the entire ordeal would kill me.

The day came when I had no words, no identity, no reason left, so I screamed. I remember none of it, but I am sure it was one of those times when I fought everything I could fight, and screaming rolled out like a war cry. And I thrashed, threatening to pull tubes and needles out of arms, neck and legs.

My husband, because he loved me and suffered with me, held my hand, paced, felt powerless and pled with God to remove my agony and give it to him. The nurse, starched and efficient, bent over me and said to take some deep breaths and stop fighting. As she explained crisply, “You will hurt yourself and undo the surgery done to help you. So stop, or we’ll have to stop you.”

It was like speaking to me in another language that I neither understood nor cared to learn. Somewhere inside the fire raging in my body, her words only made me fight harder.

Finally, to my husband, she said, “Listen, I know this must be very hard on you. Why don’t you run on back to the hotel and rest a bit?We’ll take care of your wife. Don’t you worry.”

“But what will you do? Surely no more drugs,” he said wearily.

“You just run along. We’ll tie her to the bed, and when she finds she can’t move, she’ll stop all this.”

He stood by my bedside listening to these words. He looked at me—his wife, his friend, his lover—and with tears streaming, he said to the nurse, “Oh, no, you will never tie down my Jean. I will lay my body on top of hers and she will recognize me and she will rest.”

The nurse, her mouth agape and her eyes wide, was horrified. When she found her voice, she stammered, “What are you saying? You absolutely cannot even lie in her bed, much less lie on top of her! Why, you’ll pull the rest of the tubes out, and besides, the whole thing is against hospital rules.” She shook, she was so shocked, as she added, “You cannot do any such thing!”

My husband, this man who understood intimacy and love, stood, all six feet, three inches of him, looked that nurse straight in the eye and said, almost in a whisper, “Oh, no, not to my Jean. I can do this and I will do this.” And he did do this and I, recognizing him, found peace in the recognition. I let go. I slept. Such power there is in love.

Jean Brody

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