I sat next to the quintessential "little old man" in a hospital room. He used crutches- the old wooden type that went under his arms. He was extremely thin, about 5'6" and 110 lbs. He didn't say much. His wife was in the hospital. He sat in her room because that was his duty.
I had visited him before in the hospital. His wife was always admitted to the hospital when he got sick because there was no one else to take care of her. Because she couldn't hear, she couldn't carry on a conversation. She was fed, bathed and dressed by her husband every day. He cleaned the house, cooked the meals, paid the bills and took care of her with every breath he took. So, when he got sick, the hospital would admit her too.
Today, she was dying. One of her doctors told me that her organs were failing. No one had the nerve to tell her husband. They all knew him and knew the incredible care he gave his wife. Telling him she would soon die was left to me. I thought he should know before it happened.
"Sir," I began, "Her organs are failing. He looked at me as if he didn't know what that meant. "She doesn't have much longer to live."
Tears welled in his eyes and ran down his cheeks. His next words stuck with me for the last twenty-seven years, "If she dies, I don't want to live another thirty minutes."
One would think that this man's life would get much easier without her. He would no longer be burdened with caring for her. He would no longer have to get her up and bathe her. He would no longer be burdened with feeding her and dressing her.
But you see, he wasn't burdened by those things. This was his act of love to her. Love isn't burdened when it serves. It endures things that the lack of love will run from. He felt privileged to take care of his wife.
I hoped that I would be the same type of man if my wife became unable to take care of herself.
Not long afterward his wife passed away.
The little old man wept. They had been married sixty-eight years.
1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV)
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.