It’s Valentine’s Day, and for Lili Beechinor the most profound love isn’t about candy and flowers.
We had just gotten our two children, ages two and three to bed and I found my husband, immobile, unable to speak, eyes-wide-open, lying on the floor in our bathroom.
“Ryan? Ryan!” I frantically dialed 9-11. As I stayed with Ryan, staring into his unblinking eyes, I imagined the worst. “He is going to die right here in my arms while our two children sleep and our third baby grows inside of me.”
My 34-year-old husband suffered a major stroke.
The immediate days that followed are a blur. Ryan hooked up to machines tracking his brain, heartbeat, and every breath. An ECG, MRI, a TEE. The doctors spoke in a language foreign to me. The stroke was caused by a congenital heart condition called a PFO. In time, it will need to be repaired.
The weeks following the stroke consisted of acute rehabilitation. Daily Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapy. I’d spend my days in the hospital as my husband’s voice while he relearned to use his. I’d help him shower, shave, and dress.
It was after one of these showers that I stopped, looked into Ryan’s eyes, and said, “Thank you for marrying me.” And while he couldn’t offer me much more than a smile, at that moment, I realized this experience is what I promised him in front of our family, friends, and God, “to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, all the days of my life.” We couldn’t have known it on our wedding day, I don’t think most couples do, but love, deep, forever love, reveals itself in the most vulnerable of moments.
My husband didn’t die that evening. He is very much alive and journeying along his road to recovery. As he relearns to do all of the things he could easily do before the stroke, one thing is certain, in sickness and in health, “I do, I do, I do. For the rest of forever Ryan, I do.”
With a Perspective, I’m Lili Beechinor
Lili Beechinor is a former elementary school teacher and her husband is a Clinical Oncology Pharmacist. They live in Davis.