I don’t think we ever look at a potential partner and think, “Will he/she stand by me through all the bad times ahead?” and really cherish this quality especially in this world of easy separation and many choices.
Rather, we often choose partners based on superficial criteria and short term gains. Or worse, we let a good man/woman go in favour of someone more exciting (especially in our youth).
Máire and Gerry Ryan met each other when they were 17, married seven years later, and died at 93 on the same day. Máire suffered from Alzheimers, and Gerry read poetry to her everyday (perhaps in tribute to the fact that she helped him complete his PhD years ago). They held hands everyday in the nursing home they lived in. Sounds like a Hollywood love story? Indeed, Hollywood had made a film along these lines years ago, called The Notebook. But the story of Máire and Gerry is very real. Read about it here.
Reading their story made me appreciate my partner especially in times when I find him challenging. At 50, with my children grown up and my ambitions achieved, I yearn for a quiet, simple life of doing nothing much and eating what I like. He, on the other hand, has different ideas and we often clash violently.
But he is a stayer.
Not out of need or desperation of fear or lack of choice, but rather, by choice.
Despite his constant grouse about the complexities of life with me: perpetual grocery shopping, obsession with middle class values (such as house ownership and healthy eating), loss of impulsiveness, etc etc etc. In his greater wisdom, he had decided on this.
He had stood by me stoically through thick and thin, with that stubborn, fearless, unshakeable demeanour of his. When I gave up on life, he dragged me kicking and screaming, very much against my will, back to the world of living. Locked doors which I hid behind couldn’t stop him.
“I’m not leaving,” he said mutinously. And I heard it many times since. Perhaps that is the most powerful phrase of all in a relationship.
Thank you ❤
Rest in peace, Máire and Gerry, together in life and in death.