Two wives from past Bethesda Workshops’ intensives have contacted me within recent weeks. Each was swirling in a vortex of equal parts pain and gratitude, and they were reaching out for a steadying connection. One woman had just lost her husband to an unexpected heart attack, and the second said her mate was in his last weeks of battling metastatic cancer. Both times, their sharing catapulted me into the myriad feelings of years ago when my husband David and I were in a similar situation.
I’ll never forget the overwhelming emotions as we talked about David’s diagnosis of advanced kidney cancer. Major surgery was scheduled for the following week, and the prognosis was bleak. One night we were rocking in our darkened den as we tried to process the reality of a now uncertain future. David said quietly, “I want you to know that no matter what happens, I’m at peace with this situation and I have no regrets. We’ve had such a good life.”
“How can you say we’ve had a good life? Where were you during all those awful years of betrayal and addiction?” I asked incredulously. David responded in his typical understated way. “Yeah, we’ve had some hard times for sure,” he said. “But it took those to get us where we are now, and I wouldn’t trade being here for anything.”
The first wife who called apparently felt the same way. She said that many years ago she and her husband had attended all three Bethesda Workshops – Healing for Men, Healing for Partners, and then Healing for Couples. Through tears, she said her husband had remained faithful to his recovery goals and maintained a strong program of transformation. She, too, had continued her own healing work. This grieving wife described how they prayed and laughed together and spent hours enjoying each other’s company without the necessity of words. She said, “Our relationship was better than it had ever been, and we credit the good Lord and Bethesda Workshops for the difference. I don’t know how to go on without him, but I’m so grateful for the wonderful years we had in recovery.”
The second wife described how her husband had gotten right with himself, with her, and with God as a result of their more recent experiences at Bethesda Workshops. She explained that his formerly treated cancer roared out of remission around the time of their couples’ workshop, and that he was in hospice care with only a few weeks of life expectancy. She expressed their gratitude for the healing in their relationship, which they had already shown by the gift of two hand-sculpted metal angels that grace the entrances to our new facility. (A picture of one of the angels illustrates this blog.)
Most married couples pledge to support each other for better or for worse, and in sickness and in health. These vows are significantly harder to keep than they are to promise, of course. Within these declarations are also imbedded important spiritual paradoxes. The sweetest health usually comes only after desperate sickness. The better things are usually built from the worse.
Both these alumni couples were in the middle of seemingly opposing definitions of health. Each had experienced or would soon experience the death of the husband, which on its face, sounds far from health. Yet both wives described a sweet healing that had graced their relationships and would extend beyond the grave.
A “good life” is available to all who embrace healing, and it isn’t dependent on length of time or earthly outcome.
Marnie C. Ferree