Celebrating Strong Women: This Side of Heaven

Author PhotoAndrew Budek-Schmeisser lives on a mesa in New Mexico, with his wife Barbara and a whole lot of rescued dogs. Though now sidelined by serious illness, he has working in construction, security contracting, video scriptwriting, and was a college professor for several years

He is the author of a Christian contemporary romance, “Blessed Are the Pure of Heart,” published by Tate Publishing and available from all he best online retailers (as well as Hastings outlets in the Albuquerque area).

A Wife This Side of Heaven

If I may, I like to have the honour of introducing you to the strongest woman I know – my wife, Barbara.

I should begin at the beginning of our relationship – we met through a Catholic singles website; she lived in Indiana, and at the time I lived in Texas. She lived in the town in which she’d been born; I was used to moving every few years. Her roots were deep, and mine were nonexistent. I was 40, I’ve got a few years on her.

After a month and a half of email and telephone communication, she flew to Texas to visit me, on August 9, 2001. She made the trip because, well, I had nearly severed my right arm in a woodworking accident. This might have been a warning to the less robust.

Barbara and BrayI met her at the airport in Austin, at the gate at which her flight arrived, wearing my usual summer garb of ratty shorts and a loose shirt. The flight was 20 minutes early, so she had time to build up some anxiety! She later told me that at first sight, she thought of slipping back down the jetway. Glad she didn’t.

I proposed to her within five hours, and we set the wedding date a year to the day from our meeting, August 9, 2002. She would move to Texas, and leave her family, friends, and the job she’d held for seventeen years, as an accountant.

Wow. And in the meantime, I found another teaching job, at Texas Tech, in Lubbock. This should have been another warning.

A few months before we married, I became ill on a trip to see her. Very ill; my gallbladder needed to go. Since the insurance I had wouldn’t pay for out-of-state surgery, she flew home with me to Texas, to make sure I got there. Her employer had to simply deal with it.

And then we were married – in Indiana – and immediately moved both houses and homes and the seven dogs we collectively owned to Lubbock.

And I got sick again. The surgery had gone bad, and I developed the beginnings of the illness that is killing me now. My first term teaching at Tech was a leave of absence, during which I had another, unrelated surgery that ALSO went bad…I was sent home with internal bleeding, and she noticed that I was in trouble…in the nick of time.

Eight more days in the hospital, and I was given Last Rites twice.

I recovered from these, enough to return to the classroom in January 2003.

And in May I filed for divorce. The fault was entirely mine. I wasn’t unfaithful, but I was unfeeling, immature, and something of a cad. I don’t like who I was, then.

And I did it when Barbara had gone home to visit her parents, for a chance to get some rest after the stress she’d been through.

On June 24th, 2004, we were remarried…in a helicopter over the Las Vegas Strip, at night, by a Catholic priest.

It had been a long road. I’d gone through therapy to deal with the monster I had become, and during that time there was another monster, beginning to grow inside me…one which necessitated a trip to the Mayo clinic in Arizona, and a surgery which had a 70% chance of killing me. I called Barbara, and asked her to act as my medical power of attorney. There was no one else I would trust. It was January, 2004.

The surgery didn’t kill me, but it was not successful, and the beast continued to grow.

In April Barbara said, in a telephone conversation, “I think I want my husband back.”

And in June, I got my wife back.

And she left her family all over again.

To give a man who was capable of the most callous disloyalty a second chance.

Not out of pity.

Out of love.

If that isn’t living the example of Christ, I don’t know what is.

It seems I will be going on to Heaven…if that is my destination…rather sooner than she will.

But I’ll wait outside, so we can go in together, for how can it be Heaven without her?

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