Tami Reeves

By Tami Reeves, author of Bleeding Hearts: A True Story of Alzheimer’s, Family, and the Other Woman

Being recently separated from my husband of 25 years, I found myself on the dating scene for the first time in my life. My estranged husband and I met as children and we married as soon as I graduated high school. We never dated anyone else. I knew that he wasn’t spiritual but he never said he didn’t believe in God. We married in a church and attended a Baptist church near our home where he was baptized. But as the years went on, he made it clear to me that he really didn’t believe in God anymore. I was crushed. It was one of the reasons why I decided to end the marriage. 

We weren’t unhappy, but we weren’t happy either. We kind of outgrew each other –literally. I wanted more of a spiritual relationship with God and he wanted nothing to do with it. There were other reasons, but this was a big one for me.  We did try counseling for a bit, to see if we could save the marriage.  But it was soon evident that that we both wanted to call it quits. I had a few sessions with the therapist after we stopped seeing him as a couple. He suggested I make a mental, if not a written, list of what I wanted in a partner. So I did.

The number one thing on the list was that the partner had to be spiritual. He had to have some kind of a relationship with God and/or not be critical of my spiritual relationship. I felt I had grown so little during my first marriage, I wanted the freedom to pursue my relationship with God.

I was raised in a conservative Christian family. My parents are deaf and churches didn’t have sign language interpreters back then. But they made sure we went to church, Sunday school and vacation bible school. So God has always been in my life. I’ve always, even as a child, talked to Him. Not just in my nightly prayers, but all day long sometimes. Just conversation, as if He were in the room with me. Sometimes in my mind, but sometimes out loud. I felt comforted when I talked to Him and He was always my rock growing up. Little did I know, I would lean on Him even more in my new life after my separation.

I met my now husband (Eric), through an online dating service. We exchanged some emails and then met at a coffee shop. Within the first twenty minutes, he shared some dreadfully somber news about his marital situation. His wife of thirty years was in a nursing home battling early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I am a nurse so of course I had heard of Alzheimer’s, but this was the first time I had ever heard the phrase ‘early-onset’. He went on to explain that she was just 49 years old when diagnosed and showed symptoms well before that. She no longer knew who he or anyone else in the family was anymore. His children had encouraged him, the year before, to start dating and find a partner. Not feeling ready, he listened to their advice but waited until he felt like it was the right time. He spelled it all out for me. He didn’t hold back anything. With tears flowing from both of us, I reached out to comfort him as one human being to another, caressing his shoulder to offer support. None of this mattered, I didn’t hesitate. I knew I needed to be in this man’s life in some capacity.

Some have asked me; what did I think in that moment? I didn’t. Part of it was because I am a nurse, always feeling compelled to care for others. That title is who I am, not just the credentials I have acquired. But another part was due to the spiritual growth I experienced leading up to that point. I had put everything in my Father’s hands. I knew God brought this man and his family into my life for a reason. I have never questioned my Father’s guidance.

That’s not to say I agree with everything God planned and will plan for me, but I have never questioned it. I have always known He knows best and I trust him, implicitly. It’s because of this trust I know that I can go to Him in times of trouble and feel comfort. And little did I know how soon and how often I would be seeking that comfort in my new relationship.

Eric and I’s love grew quickly. And I’ve always said, I understood why. I had to be deeply in love with this man in order to endure what would be some of the hardest times of my life. I see myself as a servant. That God placed me in Eric’s life to serve him and his family during the most horrendous of times. But to be loved as well, in the way I have always wanted to be loved, in a relationship I have always dreamed of. But love alone could not get me through the next three years on my own, unscathed. I needed God.

When I would see the love Eric had for Gaye (his late wife), I saw it as the beautiful thing it was and felt so blessed to witness it. This was because my Father gave me the eyes in which to see it. I crumbled watching Eric’s heart break, as he made difficult decisions on Gaye’s behalf. It was then that I’d lean on my Father to help gather myself back up and be strong for the man I loved. When people judged what we were doing, I was reminded that He is the only one I needed to worry about judgment from. When my human emotions would try and override the strength He had given me, my tear-filled words to him would be met with comfort and love from Him. I could, and can. feel Him just as sure as I am sitting here. He is with me always. He’s in the trees, the clouds, the sunlight, and my heart. I need to just ask, and He’s there.

Life has been quite a bit calmer since our days with Gaye. But I will never forget them. God taught me so much during that time. So much so, that I feel extremely blessed for the experience, and thank Him often for it. Because it was during those days that He taught me to love a woman that I never knew. To embrace her, her marriage, her children and her grandchildren. I love Gaye, I love her very much and I look forward to meeting the “real” Gaye someday – the day that I get to stand before my Father and thank him in His presence.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter