by Chris Henderson
So much of life consists of daily interactions and activities shaped by circumstances. We walk this path day in and day out, too often mindlessly and unappreciatively. We tend to place value on things that seem rare or unobtainable. Because that is our nature, we devalue what secures and supports us daily, taking for granted what is truly precious until it is lost. It is the outgrowth of original sin—we traded relationship with the Holy God and all the blessing and wisdom that comes from that relationship for an unproven piece of “fruit” in a vain attempt to make ourselves independent.
Every year we take a day to celebrate mothers. We rush to it, buy cards and flowers to give to our wonderful mothers, thank them and move on. Soon after, nothing has changed, and life goes on without true appreciation of what shapes and defines us. I am as guilty as any other man. I admit that I fail at this. I was blessed with an incredible mother who raised me through many issues. She’s nearly 92 and has early dementia. I know her time is limited. I know that no matter how much I’ve told her I love her, it has not been enough. Now, her ability to hold on to any knowledge is drifting away. I will continue to tell her as long as I can, whenever I can.
Like most men, I have the opportunity to do better with my wife, the mother of my children. I don't know how to adequately explain (other than by the incredible grace of God, and her immeasurable strength of character) how my wife, Juli, has been able to complete "her life assignment." She is the strongest person I know. Most people, even those who love and appreciate her, have no idea of the depth of her strength. Throughout 26 years of me serving in the Air Force, including nearly two years of deployments to the Afghan and Iraqi theaters, and a total of 37 years of medical practice, night call, and weekends away, Juli was home caring for five kids, coping with immense pressures I could not even begin to understand.
She cared for Robert while he was having increasing grand mal and drop seizures as well as over 100 partial complex seizures daily. He was rotating through varying medications and therapies that were having little to no effect. She had the opportunity to watch him regress in function and mental ability while I was deployed in support of our Special Forces heroes. She believed in the mission—and believed in me. During missions, she gave me only enough information to know that I needed to keep praying for my family—always encouraging me to press forward. Our son would be put in a medical coma twice during one six-month deployment. I truly only knew about the second time because she decided to spare me the truth of what was going on. Thankfully, Juli’s mother (wife of a retired career Army officer) was able to come and help during some of the deployment. Fortunately, the military health system was available for my son and family. The emotional and physical burden, however, was truly totally carried by Juli alone through that deployment. I know her incredible faith in God was an enormous anchor of support for her during this period. I know family members and friends assisted and comforted her.
Yet, holding the four other kids together through school requirements and extracurricular activities while loving an extremely ill child was an unbelievable accomplishment that rested on her. At the last part of the deployment, when I was just beginning to understand the enormity of what had been occurring in my absence, my home commander insisted to my wife that he work the system to bring me home. She refused. "Finish your deployment. Do your job!" was her response to me.
Through it all, she became an advocate for families with epilepsy and has served as an advocate for any family with children of disabilities, as this blog illustrates. She nursed our son through major brain surgery, difficult diets, multiple ICU stays, therapies and medical appointments. She supported others who were lost in the morass of red tape that surround getting assistance to help in time of need. She continued strong in her faith—ministering through her great voice and musical talent while teaching and counseling young music students.
My wife has nurtured our other children, who also had to suffer through my career and my deployments. Many times, she was the parent who provided the shoulder to cry on, the compassionate ear, the one up all hours of the night—the mother who understood when no one else could, all the while supporting and encouraging her children to succeed. During the times where our daily family drama tried to pull us apart and crush our kids' spirits, she held it all together. She held us together as we saw parents and close relatives pass away. She was the one who enabled our kids to stay sane while they watched what was happening to their little brother and supported them as each became successful adults. She instilled in our children an understanding that every day is a gift from God to be appreciated and lived to its fullest. She modeled compassion and sacrifice for our children in a way that taught them that life is not just about "me," but is best lived in service to others. And she held our family together through the dark and sorrowful time of Robert’s transition to eternity.
My wife isn't perfect. She'd be the first to admit that. She can be stubborn and demanding. But she does not ask anything of us that she would not do herself. She has survived more than 40 years with me through challenges too numerous to count. She loved me through my faults and failings, my absences and follies. I think she's about as close to perfect as I am going to see until I see Jesus. In my opinion, she epitomizes what defines womanhood and motherhood. In the end, this tribute is insufficient. I'm just so thankful for being loved that much.
Listening Library: What I Really Want To Say (Steven Curtis Chapman)
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:25-31 ESV)
What I Really Want To Say
I say I love you, I say I need you I try so many ways to say how my heart beats for you I say I'm always thinking about you There's no way I'd want to face this life without you And even though these words come from deep inside me There's so much more I don't have the words to say
'Cause what I really want to say Is what the sun would say to the sky For giving it a place to come alive But my words get in the way Of what I really want to say
Oh, what I really want to say
I know that sometimes my words can be as hard as stone And sometimes my words have left you feeling so alone So please forgive me and hear these words I'm saying now I will spend my whole life looking for a way somehow To let you know just how precious you are to me I'll use the best words I know but I still won't say it all
'Cause what I really want to say Is what the sun would say to the sky For giving it a place to come alive But my words get in the way Of what I really want to say Oh, what I really want to say
It's like a tale too great to be told It's something that my heart can only show I'm gonna take my whole life Just to let you know What I really want to say Oh, what I really want to say to you What I really want to say Oh, what I really want to say
Songwriters: Steven Curtis Chapman
What I Really Want to Say lyrics © BMG Rights Management