I work in hospice and have the opportunity to watch the poignant beauty of marriages that have lasted well past fifty years. I say, “poignant” because I feel both awed by the sheer beauty of a couple still caring for each other after many decades together as well as sad by my own loss.
Recently, I have been reading a book about our mortality and a particular passage struck me. It is a passage about one such couple making the journey we all will make some day.
In his book Being Mortal:Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande shares a story about an elderly retired doctor and his wife. Their marriage lasted over sixty years. Then it ended in with the death of this elderly doctor’s wife. He had this response to Dr. Gawande after her death:
When I saw him three months later, he was still despondent. ‘I feel as if a part of my body is missing. I feel as if I have been dismembered,’ he told me (58).
How many here can relate to that description? Is this how you felt when you discovered the adultery? Did you feel dismembered when she/he left?
“‘…and the two shall become one flesh'” -Mt. 19:5b, NKJV
We know from Scripture that this is what happens when a marriage is ended. And I argue the oneness is violated as well when adultery has happened. It is no longer one but one plus one uninvited soul rapist, at least.
I truly can identify with what Dr. Gawande reports from his elderly doctor friend. And I am not ashamed to say I cried myself to sleep many nights as I knew in my heart this was a dismembering. The pain was truly excruciating. We were no longer one.
But it gets worse for those who have lost spouses through adultery…
Not only are you “dismembered” but the one dismembering you is the very one who vowed lifelong fidelity to you! Adultery is the most intimate betrayal known to humankind.
Then religious people and possibly the adulterous spouses as well come along and tell the dismembered, faithful spouses that they somehow brought this heinous injury upon themselves (see “The Shared Responsibility Lie“). Such wicked, callousness! Can you imagine doing that to a widowed spouse?!!
Now, not only is one dismembered and soul raped, the faithful spouse now has to deal with a life history with serious gaps and question marks pocketing it possibly forever. The adultery and lies of the cheater has made it impossible to know for certain what that true marital history is. Was it always lies?
Thankfully, I have never experienced a death of a spouse. And I hope to be one of those old couples sixty years from now still lovingly teasing Mrs. DM and chasing her around our condo well into my nineties.
That said, I think it is worth pausing to consider that divorced faithful spouses are worthy of more care and consideration–not less as usually happens–than even widowed spouses for widowed spouses do not have to deal with such additional and unjust losses on top of the lost spouse.
*This post ran previously. (I no longer work for a hospice organization at the time of this re-posting).