"A Less Than Perfect Marriage"

In the month that I have been involved with Daily Strength, it has been my honor to interact with nearly 100 souls who have suffered the loss of their spouse or partner in life. Everyone has their own, unique story as well as their own unique means of dealing with the pain, sorrow and anguish that has befallen them. 
Very rarely, if ever, have I read of the “less than perfect marriage”. Everyone so eloquently speaks of the loss of their mates with the reverence normally reserved for saints. This is NOT meant to be critical, nor is it meant to be hurtful, which is why this appears in my journal and not as a discussion topic. But I find it remarkable that so many people have been blessed with the ideal marital situation, and I find it necessary for ME to face the fact that my marriage was one of those that was very challenging for me, particularly in the last few years. And far from perfect. 
Barbara and I both suffered from the disease of alcoholism. I was fortunate that on April 3, 1990, I reached my “bottom” and managed to seek treatment for this and have remained sober for 20 years, “one day at a time”. Barbara was not so lucky. She continued to allow alcohol to control and consume her. The both of us also smoked cigarettes. In April of 2000, I smoked my last cigarette, and again, Barbara was unable or unwilling to put them down. And cancer claimed her life. 
The last ten years of our marriage and Barbara's life were not the happiest, most memorable of years that we shared with one another. Her health was in a steady decline; her alienation from her family and friends, and the end of our intimacy as husband & wife were very difficult for me to cope with, and I am sure, no picnic for her either. Watching the person you love; the person you share everything with, decay and degenerate before your very eyes as you remain helpless, is a situation I would wish on no one.
Oddly, this did not diminish the love we had for one another. It only changed the dynamics of that love. You see, my Barbara could never find the strength, courage, or will to seek the help necessary to ease the grip of the addictions that were draining her very life from her. And although I did, I never gave up in my hopes that she would reach that place where she could begin to heal. She never did. 
So, in a sense, I lost my wife years ago, although we continued to live and love one another in a manner that I cannot really explain nor justify. And I do not believe that I need to. None of us need to explain how or why we love. The fact of the matter is that we DO love, and when the object of that love dies, we grieve. And we feel pain. And we need help in order to process the grief and the pain. And that is the reason and the purpose of Daily Strength.  And that is why I am here.
While my marriage to my wife, Barbara, may have been “less than perfect”, my love for her was every bit as strong and valid as the love felt by those fortunate souls who were blessed with perfection.  Love "is what it is".