Valentine’s Day comes with mixed emotions for me, as it is also the day I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, and, so, my thoughts and attention naturally turn to my own struggle rather than toward my loved ones, whom I sometimes forget live with this illness, too. But this February 14, I would like to focus on the true meaning of the day and offer a love letter of sorts to those who hold such meaning in my life and who patiently endure despite the hardships. To my loved ones, I wish for you…
…to know and genuinely feel the love and appreciation I have for you. I value you above all others, and despite my sometimes-harsh words, raw emotions, unreasonable expectations and demands and temper tantrums to the contrary, you have never once disappointed me in any noteworthy way. You are the constants who add stability and meaning to my life, the ones I know I can count on, regardless of circumstances, no matter how difficult my days.
…to grasp how special, how exceptional you are for finding the strength to withstand the cruel realities of this illness, to persist despite the horrors of gastroparesis which affect everyone in my life, but you far more than any others. You bear physical, emotional, financial and spiritual burdens which directly flow from my diagnosis and which cannot be ignored but must be daily addressed. You are meaningfully and significantly impacted by my poor state of health; yet, rather than abandon, neglect or disregard me, you exert endless effort to include, forgive and accommodate me, and fully believe your lives are better with my presence than without. Many times, and in many instances, you have sacrificed material possessions, leisure activities, luscious meals, free time and emotional peace because your love for and commitment to me outweighs your focus on “self.”
…to live free from guilt and with a focus, if only for brief spells, on your own well-being and happiness. You are brave and kind for silently and patiently enduring the limitations placed upon me and upon you because of this illness. And though I am the one who must deal with the symptoms of this disease, you are impacted as well. You do your best to hide and downplay it, but I see the guilt and sorrow which haunt you when you choose to engage without me in celebrations, family gatherings and school happenings, or, on the other hand, when you forgo those events because you are needed at home or do not wish to leave me alone. In truth, in my heart, and despite my sometimes selfishly voiced objections, it is my hope that you pursue the activities and endeavors which bring you joy, even if those pursuits do not include me. You have lives, dreams and goals of your own, and you have already forfeited so many of these for my benefit. I want you to live the most “normal” lives possible without fear I will feel abandoned or excluded and without regret that you somehow “missed out” on opportunities.
…peace in your hearts and contentment in your souls. It is difficult to endure adversity, and it is almost never welcome, but you must be at joyful, as am I, regardless of current circumstances. Serenity comes from inside and from knowing there is something beyond our current state, a purpose for our existence, an ultimate plan for our being – and it is possible to rest in that knowledge.
…to hope beyond hope and dream beyond what is rational that, one day, we will live free from the punishing effects of this illness, that there will be a cure, or a remission, or merely a more effective treatment, which allows us to once again participate in long abandoned endeavors and which frees our lives from the burdens so cruelly imposed upon us. And short of this, I wish you joy in the times we have together and certainty of knowledge that I am grateful for each moment spent with you, even when I fail to express this.
What we have endured together has strengthened us, sealed our commitment and united us for eternity. You are my one wish come true, all that I value and all that I love, happiness, contentment, fulfillment and delight. You have made my life worth living and, despite the hardships, the sorrows and the ever-increasing difficulties, I would trade this life for no other.
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