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 A Day to Cherish
 The Promise
In Sickness and Health
Nadine Dillon Hielcher

The Wedding Band I dragged myself up out of a groggy sleep. My pillow was soaked. I tried to wake my husband, John, but my tongue was thick and dry. The words came out like mush. John understood through my garbled words that I needed to use the bathroom. He helped me to my feet, but I dropped to the floor like a rag doll. My left side would not hold my weight -- kind of like it feels when your leg goes to sleep. John helped me up, carried me to the bathroom, and set me on the commode. I slipped off the toilet and slammed my head against the porcelain tub. He couldn't lift me up out of the tiny space I had fallen between the commode and tub. Mumbling and gesturing frantically with my right arm, I communicated to him to just drag me to the bedroom. He tugged and pulled me out of the tiny space, then picked me up and put me back in bed. My left arm was asleep, too. As he carried me, I swung it back and forth trying to wake it up. He tucked me in and tenderly stroked my face. "Are you okay, Pootie?" Pootie is John's pet name for me.

I closed my eyes so he wouldn't see the fear there and mumbled, "Yeah, just sleepy."

That humid summer night would forever change the direction of my life. John married me in spite of the Muscular Dystrophy I had lived with since l992. I could do most things except climb stairs and lift heavy objects. All was going well with the exception of the migraine headaches that plagued me since the third grade. I knew that the medication I had taken for the headache made me weak and drowsy, but fear tugged at my heart. This was something more.

The next morning I awoke, attempted to move, and couldn't turn over. Through the doorway I could see John shaking and heard him crying into the phone. My heart was breaking. I was frightened and bewildered. Amidst the static in my brain, I heard John tell my mother to hurry and get to our house.

John picked me up as if I was a China doll and carried me to the car for the ride to the hospital. After many tests, the doctors told him I probably wouldn't make it through the night. My main concern was not being able to comfort my sweet husband. His shock and sadness will forever be embedded in my heart.

John stayed by my side all night, praying. Sometime during the night I awoke to a soft caress on my face and opened my eyes to see him smiling down at me. I asked if his mother was coming back to see me. He just shook his head and said, "No," with a little laugh. You see, his mother had passed away three years before.

I insisted that his mother had been there, holding one of our cats who died years before.

"Your Mom was sitting down, holding Muffin. She smiled at me to let me know I was going to be all right," I said calmly.

Clearly, I remember the white gown she wore, flowing and glowing with a brilliance I have never seen before or since. She smiled reassuringly, then faded into a mist and disappeared.

My mom and dad visited me every evening. Dad would bring the milkshake he made at home and Mom would feed it to me. They never missed a day.

John drove forty miles everyday after work just so he could hold my hand like he has done every night since we have been together. My husband is my life and any time without him was more than I could bear. John is a very sensitive person. When he stroked my hair and told me he would see me tomorrow, I looked into his pain-filled eyes and my heart split in two.

I just wasn't the same away from our home - separated from John and our many cats. My appetite was gone. Fear engulfed me until John walked through the hospital room door and enveloped me with that beautiful smile of his - the one I fell in love with.

After a month in the hospital, many discussions were held and finally the doctors decided to let me go home. They said they didn't know how to treat me. I wasn't improving.

At home, I was helpless. I had to rely on my parents and John to do everything for me. My aunt came to help me, filling in for my parents. She took the time to help even though she cared for two children and a brother who was dying of cancer.

I'm sure my parents didn't want to spend their retirement taking care of a baby, but that is how they spent thirteen months of it. My father, forever stoic, pulled my underwear down and sat me on the toilet every day. He held me while I wiped myself, then pulled my underwear up. I cried in frustration and embarrassment.

My mom comforted me, "Baby, that's why God made mammas and daddies."

After several months, I was able to help get myself in a standing position. I would rest my chin on my dad's shoulder, then pull up with my chin as he lifted. Months passed and I continued to improve in tiny increments, thanks to my loving family. It wasn't enough of an improvement or fast enough for me and still isn't. It is improvement, though.

John was amazingly devoted. He showered and dressed me. He would even blow dry my hair just the way I wanted. Every night he massaged my weakened left side with essential oils. He learned how to cook. He shopped for food, cooked, cleaned the house and still went to work every day.

The rigorous schedule took its toll on John. His patience was stronger than I could ever ask for. Many times I voiced my concerns over his health and he replied, "Pootie, we'll be all right. God's gonna heal you one-hundred percent." Some men would have walked out.

It's been one and a half years since the stroke. I can now walk with my three-wheeled walker, go to the bathroom by myself, cook simple meals, wash dishes and use my computer. It may not sound like much, but according to the doctors, I wasn't supposed to be here. We thought we had dealt well with the Muscular Dystrophy issues before we decided to marry. A stroke wasn't in the bargain.

I thought I knew what a terrific man I was married to, but if it's possible, I love John more today than when we were married. He takes me to the park to feed the ducks and runs errands for me, even when he is exhausted. He says he does all of this because I'm his wife and his Pootie. God has truly joined our two hearts and spirits. We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary this year. We still hold hands.

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Nadine Dillon Hielscher lives with her husband, John, in California. Her spirit and love for herself, God and her family are a blessing not taken for granted.

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Artwork "The Wedding Band" by Patse Hemsley
Visit his web site at http://www.artquest.com/Giveaway/1-99feature.htm
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