(95) Just As You Are

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

In the past week, I have taken to reading, shutting myself away. Tension runs high in our household with irritability on both sides. Molly misbehaves in the most peculiar ways, likely feeding off of our strife. I came upon the perfect fiction book that changed my way of thinking about what my husband has been through since his enlistment in 1968. I want to share it with family caregivers of Veterans.

The book I reference is Rekindled by Tamara Alexander. The genre is Christian historical romance. I never met the author but this is the second book I have read from her. I recommend it to anyone who has been married for ten or more years, as it shows how a marriage can be restored and be as exciting as it was in the beginning. I wanted to share this story because it fits the life we caregivers and Veterans share.

A Quick Synopsis

At the close of the 1800s, a rancher and his wife face difficulties keeping their homestead solvent and their marriage together. The rancher is ambushed on his way to make a deal to secure the future of the ranch. His attacker leaves him for dead after setting the shack where he fled on fire. A devout Christian couple rescues him, sharing their faith and nurturing him back to health over several months. He is deeply scarred by the fire and unrecognizable when he returns to his community to find his wife. His wife ended up destitute when he failed to return from his trip, as she discovered their homestead is deeply in debt. Believing he can offer nothing to her in his torn and scarred condition, he watches her from afar. The story of redemptive love continues (I promise I won’t give away any more of the story).

War Changes Everything

For most of us, we married our spouses deeply in love. War changed our men. Many came back with physical and mental scars so heinous that we barely recognized them. They look in the mirror and do not recognize themselves. Inside, they loathe who they are or what they have become. Often they do not know why they are changed—just that they are no longer the person they were before war. Even their closest friends do not recognize them or want to be around them—just like in the story.

What the story taught me is that I cannot change my husband back to what he was when I married him. He changed profoundly from war and from the decades of torment with PTSD and his physical injuries of war. I must learn to accept who he is today without any expectation of changing him. As his PTSD progresses and his physical body breaks down, he will continue to change—just as I will with age. I must find that rekindled love, which says from the deepest part of my soul that I still love him, desire him, and will remain by his side until separated by death.

A Love Rekindled 

“Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things!” Psalm 72:18-19 NKJV

I struggle with this lesson, as I spent years trying to recapture those first years of bliss. This struggle leaves me frustrated and unfulfilled. It is only through my faith in Jesus Christ that I find the hope and strength to go on and find joy in living with a spouse with PTSD. God gives me strength to continue caring for him even when we exchange angry words or when I want to walk away. He slowly unveils the secrets of my husband’s true heart just when I need it the most. With the love my Savior has given me for my husband, I can surrender my desire to change my husband over to God and allow God to change my heart to accept my husband just as he is. With the gift of salvation, I know we will both be restored one day and live in paradise together with our Heavenly Father.

For now, I can say, “I love you just as you are.”

Post your Comments: 

What do you do to keep your marriage fresh and exciting? Please comment below. 

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.