Monday, December 15, 2014

All You Need is Love

[Blog entry written by Mark Bonnema]

“You can’t live on love…” This phrase passed down from generation to generation is often spoken with intent to motivate and spur young couples to make sure they consider life beyond their intensive affectionate stage and ensure they have the financial means to pay their bills and begin life largely self-sufficiently. But what happens when life takes your ability to work, your vocation, and means of livelihood and warps and twists them like lawn ornaments in a tornado? What happens when it seems all you have left is love?

Ashley is a fighter. A brave, fearless, often blindly determined fighter. Tell her she cannot do something and she will work all the harder. Music, schooling, teaching, writing, maintaining extensive friendship networks, she does it all with grace and ease. I am often amazed and even a bit jealous with how easy she makes being successful in life look. The recent exacerbation of Ashley’s lung infection (a chronic part of living with cystic fibrosis) has taken its toll on Ashley’s ability to make music, teach, go to school, and even maintain close friendships beyond text messaging. It's heartbreaking to see the activities she loves so much in life lie just out of her reach. Her health is keeping her tired, worn down, short of breath, and fighting just to heal. There is no time left for her to welcome students into her studio, to practice for her graduate vocal recital, or to sing with her favorite group of singers (the marvelous South Dakota Chorale, of course!).  Beyond breathing and trying to fight infection, sometimes it seems all Ashley has left to live on is… love.

Throughout the years we have dated and been married, Ashley’s health trials have provided difficult experiences that have taught us many invaluable lessons about how to live life. Take nothing for granted. Live fully today, but be prepared for whatever tomorrow may bring. Never give up. And finally, treasure your loved ones, hold them close – the time may arise when you need to lean on them and allow them to hold you close in return. This last lesson is one we have been experiencing daily over the past few months. As Ashley’s health has declined, we have not been able to keep up our lives as usual. School and work have taken backseat to getting Ashley through each new day. Teaching and practicing music have become dreams of treasured life-giving ventures Ashley hopes to return to someday. Cooking, dishes, laundry, decorating for Christmas… again, secondary to making sure Ashley is able to maintain her health. It seems we have been forced into a situation of “living on love.”  
Fortunately for us, we are blessed beyond measure. We could never count, add, figure, or determine the amount of support and love we have received from our family and friends. When life was turned upside-down and we found ourselves with an hour’s notice before heading to the hospital in Minneapolis for two weeks, nearly everyone we knew reached out with offers large and small seeking to help in ways we never knew possible, and most of all, ensure we knew we had immeasurable love and support. Blessing is a word with new meaning for us, as is the phrase, “living on love.”  When forced to live on the love, generosity, and kindness of others, the phrase takes on a meaning as beautiful as a glimpse of the sun in the mid bleak winter. Thank you to each and every one of you who have helped to fill this current time of uncertainty, fear, with love, support, laughter, and joy. You are incredible.

  (Ashley singing a few lines for the first time in weeks.)

Look in the mirror – you are incredible. Thanks for your love.

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