In sickness and in health
By A. Ray Lee
After a simple wedding Thursday night December 22 in Coral Gables, Fla., Effie and I left early the next morning on our way to New Orleans where I was a student at NOBTS. I had been granted a week’s leave from my job at Whitney National Bank over the Christmas holidays for the occasion but would have to be back for work at 6 p.m. on Monday. We had planned to take four days to leisurely cover the 800-plus miles with several stops along the way in an abbreviated honeymoon. The first stop would be in Lakeland.
The weather had been unusually cold for December in South Florida. In the days prior to our wedding Effie had developed what we assumed was a seasonal cold. The drive to Lakeland took about five hours in a car that had a malfunctioning heater with only two settings—hot or cold with nothing in between. Effie’s discomfort had worsened during the drive. Upon arriving in Lakeland we visited briefly with the family of the Florida Southern College chaplain for whom she had worked while a student. Noting Effie’s respiratory problems he insisted upon calling the campus physician and arranged for him to see her the next morning.
Upon the advice of the doctor, we spent another night in Lakeland for the prescribed medicine to take effect. Thinking of the delay and how it affected our plans Effie had reminded me that I had vowed to love her in sickness and in health.
She was still having respiratory problems late Monday afternoon when we arrived at the Seminary campus and the one-room efficiency apartment we would occupy for the next six months until a larger one became available. After getting her settled in I left at about five-thirty for work. Within a few days of rest she was feeling much better, but apparently needing assurance reminded me again of my vow.
Through the years the words “in sickness and in health” became a light-hearted mantra often spoken with tongue in cheek when one of us had a malady whether real or imaginary and felt neglected. Then late in our marriage there came a time when all similarities to a joke were removed as we entered into a darkening tunnel of existence without an exit or light at its end. The challenges were great to find a way in which love and care might be mediated in a manner that she could comprehend as she struggled with a debilitating illness that was slowly destroying her mind and ravishing her body.
My thoughts often return to our relationship that spanned over fifty-eight years. In nostalgic moments when my heart is chilled by a melancholic sadness my soul is warmed by blessed memories of the love we shared.