My Refuge

By Carmen Leal-Pock

As I listened to David's labored breathing and heard him choke and gasp for air, I was filled with terror. It had been months since I had slept a complete night. Each time I drifted off, the choking sound forced me awake. After being startled for the fourth time I grabbed a book and began to read.

From the beginning of our marriage, our bedroom was our special place. Along with other belongings, I brought two active children into my marriage to David. Our room was where we could escape from the challenges of parenting and life and enjoy our growing friendship. We shared hours of discussing our hopes and dreams, working out problems and bringing our praises and concerns to God. The remembrance of the intimacy we shared wrapped in each others arms as we entered the throne room to converse with God is so precious it is painful.

Most nights David is too exhausted to do more than mumble "I love you" before he drifts off into his fitful sleep. I have retained my habit of reading, and I seek an escape from my emotions in the pages of books and magazines. The demands on my time from all arenas soon take their toll as the words begin to blur on the page. I roll over and press myself against this man who is more dear to me than any person alive.

The touch of his skin acts as a stimulant, and I find myself wide awake while the tears begin to form in my eyes. I turn onto my back and begin my nightly ritual of unwrapping stored memories of our brief time together. I begin with shared experiences of today and move my way in reverse smiling through the laughter, movies, trips and an infinite number of details. The ache in the area of my heart becomes stronger and I once again deny his disease.

I have never felt such wrenching pain. David can no longer work so I support a family, parent my adolescent boys, perform the household chores, and somehow make it through each day. During my waking hours, I usually put on a brave face and people remark on how well I am handling David's terminal illness. As I curl closer to David, I again reflect on the disease that is ravaging his mind and his body - Huntington's Chorea.

I realize, without sleep, I can not possibly make it through tomorrow. Next to my bed is a book of God's Promises. I pick it up and the journal opens to a page that is worn and much thumbed. My glance falls on Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. (NIV) Through my tears, I continue on to the next line that is from I Peter 5:7 Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. (NIV) I turn the page looking for a verse that has carried me through so many trials in my life. Isaiah 41:10 says Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice. (NIV)

The promises I read in the little maroon volume, ragged from age, fill me with comfort. God assures me through His word that though my bedroom no longer feels like a refuge, He will be my strength and my refuge. I do not have to be strong by myself. He also tells me to give Him all my troubles. He loves me so much He will never leave me and He will surely provide creative answers to my worries. He encourages me to not be afraid in the morning when I am afraid to even open my eyes and face the day.

I will myself to fall asleep and even as I do I remember another key verse. Philippians 4:13 says, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. (NIV) I realize that means I can watch my husband decline to the point that in the very near future he will not be able to walk, or talk, or eat solid food, or take care of any of his needs. I will be able to care for him and continue to love him when my natural inclination is to build walls surrounding myself, so that I won't hurt so much when he is gone.

In my bed as a young girl, I always felt nothing could harm me. Regardless of the traumas and life's injustices I experienced during the light of day, I knew I would be secure once I went to bed. Tonight I learned precepts from God's word. Along with my memories of David, I will store those words and draw strength from them. And I will cherish each day I am blessed to have David as my friend and my love.

Converted to HTML by Renette Davis. Send comments to her by clicking here with permission from the author, Carmen Leal-Pock (

Last updated: Dec. 5, 2010