It was a little over a year ago that Chris and I were in Kenya for a month. As March passed this year, I kept thinking of what we were doing each day, one year ago.
There was the part of the trip when we were in our rural village, walking each day to garden, Kenyan kids chasing after us as my long skirt dragged and our Tevas kicked up red dirt.
Then there was the part of our trip when we were on a safari. I'll never forget arriving at that resort. We must have looked like such a mess compared to the other vacationers! It's a high-end lodge, but we were able to stay there due to their amazing volunteer discount. Everyone was dressed to the nines in safari clothes and we rolled up in our volunteer gear after three weeks of using a bucket of water to shower. Juice, coffee, mimosa? They offered us upon arrival. Yes, please, all three! We probably acted like we hadn't had a proper meal in weeks. (In our defense, we hadn't!)
Then, of course, there was the last part of our trip when I was in the hospital. I'll never forget lying on the metal bed after being admitted. Doctors rushed all around me speaking in Swahili as I shook from the fever, even though the non-air conditioned, windowless room must have been at least 85 degrees. I remember feeling so scared because they wouldn't let Chris back with me. Before they could figure out what was wrong, when we were worried it was something really severe, I remember thinking there was no way I would allow myself to die alone on a table in in Kenya.
I also thought about how embarrassed I was that Chris was seeing me so sick. We'd been married a little over nine months and I had absolutely no bowel control. I was throwing up so much I could barely sit up in time to hit the bucket. I cannot imagine what I looked like as my stomach emptied itself from both directions and I cried about being scared and just wanting to go home. These are not the moments you picture when you take your vows.
I was thinking about that recently and realized there are a lot of reasons Chris and I work as a couple - and a million reasons I'm grateful I got to marry him. But the thing that matters the most, when you're in the thick of it, is gentility. I can't imagine how different our hospital experience would have looked if he hadn't been so kind, so careful, as he updated my family and tended to my needs.
If you're the stage of life when you're choosing a husband, I can't tell you enough to pick someone who is kind, patient and gentle. Pick someone who will be by your side no matter how terribly disastrous you look and feel. Pick someone who will rub your back and tell you you're beautiful, with so much conviction you actually forget you have vomit on your hospital gown. Pick someone who is kind, time and time again and I promise you will never regret it.