In Sickness and in Health
‘I, Jean, take you M–, for my lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this time forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…’
We had an insurance policy that we always laughed about. It ended ‘or prior death’.
‘Don’t you dare die,’ I used to say.
That December, for some obscure reason, I decided that the Christmas present would be seven small gifts, one to be opened each month until his birthday on June 10th. It was great fun choosing them, from a mug from Barter Books, the huge second hand bookshop in Alnwick, with a promise of coffee by their roaring fire, to theatre tickets and a pre-performance dinner.
Christmas day was a bit strange. The excitement of seeing someone’s face as they open their gifts was on hold. ‘Hmm. Got that wrong,’ I thought. But he loved the first one and as Christmas was tidied away, six more gifts sat on the table in the bedroom unopened. 10th of January and the first surprise was revealed and appreciated.
However, there is no good way to reveal unwelcome news. Random blood test. Prostrate. Cancer. Aggressive. So followed rounds of appointments, tests, scans, more appointments. We were the fortunate recipients of a company health care scheme that speeded up the processes, the prognosis for prostate cancer was optimistic and we had a promise – ‘in sickness and in health’.
I asked our children the other day, how they had felt.
‘It was great timing. I was walking down Kentish Road on the way to work. Fortunately, my colleague was an ex-nurse and could reassure me.’
‘I overheard you talking.’
Surgery came and went. The insurance policy matured and we benefitted. There were secondaries that responded to treatment. It did not spread. ‘Prior death’ had to wait. Other consequences were manageable. When we were sad, I always said, ‘I’d rather you were alive.’ And there were the presents to open.
Would prior knowledge have made any difference to the promise? I was not always full of compassion – there was fear, frustration, annoyance even… Sickness does not send a calling card asking if it is convenient to call, or ring ahead to say it is on the way. And for some, a promise may be better withdrawn. But here we are. ‘‘Til death us do part.’jean wilson