The sky was a painter’s treasure with bright blue and a few puffy clouds. Bright green grass that smelled like it had been freshly mowed lay like a green carpet beneath three white wicker chairs. Sandy sat with her soon to be husband and enjoyed the view of the lake. Jeff’s mind was on the details of their wedding, but Sandy’s mind was on her parents. ‘I’m sorry Jeff, what did you say?’
‘I’ve asked the same question three times Sandy. You seem to be somewhere far away today. What is it? Are you having second thoughts?’ Jeff wasn’t worried but he knew his fiance’ was definitely somewhere else in mind that day.
‘I was thinking of my mother and father. Dad was married twice, and Mom was married four times. It seems everyone in my family have had a divorce at least once.’ Sandy sighed and turned her eyes on Jeff. The slight breeze off the lake lifted his soft brown hair. Bright blue eyes with thick dark lashes met her green eyes. Jeff was a little over nine inches taller than Sandy. She had short red curly hair and was just five feet tall. ‘I don’t want a life like that Jeff. I lived my life being shuffled from my father’s girlfriends and to my mother’s latest love. Is there such a thing as everlasting love?’
Jeff smiled as he remembered that day 12 years ago. He had assured Sandy that they were meant to be together. Yet, life hadn’t been a fairy tale. In fact, his wife had grown tired after suffering the loss of their ten yr old daughter to leukemia. Jeff was shocked when she had gone on a cruise to ‘clear her head’. Jeff was left to fend for himself and his two boys ages 6 and 8. Sandy’s sudden decision to take off on a cruise into the north atlantic had made no sense to Jeff. After all, he was hurting too. He needed his wife now more than ever. Yet, he let her go.
Over the past two years their marriage had taken one huge hit. Their daughter Rachael had been diagnosed with leukemia just two years ago. Sandy seemed to have forgotten the rest of her family existed. She spent her free time on the internet looking for cures. Her days were spent at the hospital. Jeff was there as much as he could. He was working as a sub contractor and trying to make extra money for Rachael’s medical bills that seemed to never end.
Night after night the married couple had argued over everything and nothing at all. The stress seemed to be easier if they just didn’t talk at all. Jeff slept in the den so he wouldn’t be awoken when his wife got home late from the hospital. He hired his younger sister to keep house and look after the boys. Sandy never made it a priority to see what the boys were doing. Jeff was stuck between his anger at his wife’s devotion to their daughter, and his guilt for being angry.
Now the funeral was over. The much dreaded sorrow was overwhelming. Rachael had been so brave throughout the whole ordeal. Her once chubby face and bright red curls like her mother, had ended with her being bald and skin like porcelain. Yet, she smiled whenever Jeff walked in her room. ‘I asked God to give you something special today Dad’ she would say. His answer was always. ‘He already did Rachael. I have you.’ Rachael knew she was going to die toward the end. Jeff felt it but neither said it out loud.
Jeff was glad that Rachael knew the Lord. He was also thankful for the comfort of the church family at this time. His elder, Bob Richardson was also his best friend. Neither could quite understand Sandy’s mindset at this time, but they thought it best to let Sandy have this time. ‘God can meet her wherever she is Jeff’, Bob said.
His mind went to his wife and their early days together. His head settled back on his chair and he reminisced. He admitted to himself that the first attraction had been her hour glass figure and those bouncy red curls. She almost looked like a very sexy little orphan annie. His idea of being in love was so different since then. Love was a noun back then. It was an emotion, a feeling he got that never went away when he saw her. He wanted her back then and thought he would die without her. He still felt that way. Yet, he also felt that he needed to show her his love was more than a noun. To him, it had become a verb as well. It was an action word. Putting her needs above his own. It was easy to do most of the time. At the moment he sat thinking, it was far from easy.
Jeff’s arms ached from wanting to hold her. Yet, she wouldn’t be home for another two days. What was she doing on that cruise ship? He had no idea.
Meanwhile, the waves dipped and heaved under the huge ocean liner. Sandy sat alone in the corner watching the sun make glistening stars on the oceans tips. Her ice coffee sat on a white plastic table and she was stretched out on a plastic lounge chair. She hadn’t really let herself think since that early morning. Having Rachael die in her arms was a final blow. Her prayers had gone up and her faith that she was going to be healed were without question. To Sandy, Rachael was simply going to get well and that was that.
After the first day of the cruise, Sandy had begun to think about her family. She had dreamed of the boys getting ready for little league. She saw Jeff struggling to get his sister Lois home for high school dance and get the boys off to bed at a decent hour. She sat on the deck of the ship and wondered how he had handled it all. She remembered seeing him every day. But, when was the last time he had hugged her? When had they made love? Then she remembered he had been sleeping in the den.
‘How long has he been sleeping there?’ she wondered. Sandy was surprised to notice her clothes were rather baggy. She had lost almost fifteen pounds during the last few years. She sipped her ice coffee and watched the dolphins swim in formation off the east portside. Her state room had a private balcony for which she was grateful. She hadn’t explored the cruise ship or gone on any trips. She just wanted solitude and a view of the sea. The sea listened to Sandy’s questions but gave no answers.
Sandy’s thoughts swirled around in her head and she couldn’t seem to focus on anything. She went back into her suite and lay on the bed. The glass doors to the balcony were left open and the sound of the ocean waves lulled her to sleep.
Sandy awoke when a soft knock came to the door. It was the breakfast tray. She smiled at the maid and brought the tray inside. Sandy noticed she had once again fallen asleep in her clothes. She just shrugged it off. The coffee smelled wonderful and the fruit cup and bagel could wait while she slipped into the shower. Wrapping a towel around her hair and donning a fresh pair of white capris with a green sleeveless shirt, she padded out to the balcony with her breakfast tray. As she set the tray onto the white plastic umbrella table, she heard the sounds of the other passengers. Lively laughter floated up to her. She suddenly felt alone.
Her coffee made a bitter breakfast companion. She remembered the coffee maker Jeff had bought her when they first got married. Over the years, they had to replace it. Now, why was she thinking of such trivia? It wasn’t the coffee maker that she missed. She missed Jeff.
‘Well, I will see him tomorrow.’ But, tomorrow seemed suddenly too long to wait to talk to him. She went to the desk and asked to make a call. After several moments she heard the ringing.
‘Hello?’ a rough sounding voice said.
‘Jeff? Are you ok?’
Jeff’s first thought was that something was wrong. ‘Why are you calling? Is there an emergency?’ He raked a hand through his uncombed hair. His feet were bare and freezing on the tiled floor of the kitchen. He’d fallen asleep on the couch and the sound of the phone jerked him awake.
‘Oh, Jeff. I just wanted to hear your voice. I was thinking, I think I need some help. I mean, to get through all this.' She hesitated a moment and then got up the courage to tell her husband, '... I need you Jeff. When I get back…’ suddenly Sandy wasn’t sure how to say what she was on her mind.
‘Sweetheart, it’s all right. I’ll be at the airport to pick you up. Do you want to spend the week end together or just come home? Whatever you need, I’m here.’ Jeff squeezed his eyes shut as he tried to keep himself composed.
The phone seemed suddenly to shake as Sandy found her voice. She was thinking of how often he had talked about love being a verb. ‘You dear sweet man of God, you have shown me that there is such a thing as an everlasting love.. You make love a verb, it’s something you do. I just wanted you to know I have the best husband in the world. Thank you for letting me go on this cruise at the worst possible time. I haven’t been thinking too well in a long time.’
Jeff stood in the kitchen leaning next to the counter wiping his wet face. ‘I love you Sandy!’
‘I love you too. I’ll be at the airport tomorrow around two in the afternoon. How about we make a week end of it. A cheap hotel room and take out pizza?’
Jeff began to laugh. ‘Well ok, but I pick the hotel.’ He had a surprise forming in his head.
The embrace at the airport went on and on. ‘I never should have gone off like that.’ Sandy started to say. Jeff quieted her with a kiss.
‘Sandy, I don’t know what was right or wrong. We could spend days focusing on this episode. But for now, let’s let the healing begin.’ Sandy kissed him again.
Jeff then escorted his wife to a rental car. He drove for about six miles and parked at a beautiful bed and breakfast. ‘I’m not sure they do take out, but I’ll take you out for that pizza’.
Sandy clung to her husband that week end. The devastation of losing a child was not something they would ever get over. But, together they would find healing through Jesus Christ. They realized something through this ordeal.
They realized that they started out falling in love through an emotion. But when they turned the noun into a verb they did something with it. They chose to commit themselves to each other. Jeff chose to replace his own need at a crucial time in his life, for the needs of his wife. God rewarded Jeff with wisdom and peace.