birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

In Sickness and In Health

You promise a lot of serious stuff when you get married: to forsake all others, to be there in rich times and in poor, in sickness and in health. I meant those things when I made those vows, but I had no idea what they would actually mean. They are easy promises to make, but not so easy to keep.

While we gave some of the vows a run for their money in my first marriage, it was the “in sickness and health” vow that we got right. My first husband was a remarkably healthy man. He rarely had a cold or any sort of illness so when they saw a spot of his lung in a chest x-ray, even his own doctor didn’t think it would be anything. He wasn’t a smoker, after all.

After a month of one test after another to rule out all the inconsequential stuff, he was diagnosed with lung cancer on our nineteenth wedding anniversary. In the seconds it takes to utter the words cancer, our whole world changed forever. Because it was caught early, surgery to remove part of his lung was supposed to take care of it. It didn’t.

Three years later, the cancer came back and with a vengeance. There was no quick surgical fix and no good prognosis. There was four months of weekly chemotherapy instead that was supposed to extend his life by maybe a year.

I realized quickly that I needed to be at each chemo treatment and at every doctor’s visit to make sure I knew what was supposed to happen with medications, etc. We probably spent more time together over the next eight months before he died than we had in our entire married life. In that time and in keeping that vow, I caught a glimpse of what a good relationship could be.

When I made those promises a second time, I did so with an entirely different perspective on keeping them.

Pinky Swear

The Challenge