A life event rocked this couple’s world, but their marriage has lasted 32 years strong. Richard and Sonya Lea Bandy met at 16 at a high school dance, and it was love at first sight.
“I was drawn to him instantly. We bonded over a shared love of language,” Sonya says.
Ashley Sexton from Liftable continues on:
The couple went on to marry and have two children.
Before you get caught up in the romance, you should know this was a marriage of two humans. Their happily ever after still involved struggles and pain. Richard was a workaholic and had anger issues and a drinking problem.
They faced struggles. Two children and a move to Seattle took their toll. He worked too hard, running 21 physical-therapy clinics while seeing patients, and struggled with anger issues; she wrestled with alcoholism. But they loved each other and love conquered all, they thought.
Pan forward to age 42. Richard was stricken with a rare form of cancer, Pseudomyxoma Peritonei. This form of cancer infects the mucous that surrounds vital organs. The cancer was treated, but in only a few years it came back. This time doctors decided that Richard needed surgery.
The surgery lasted 10 hours and went terribly wrong. While under the knife, one surgeon accidentally nicked an organ and Richard began to bleed internally. Without knowing this, they closed him up and sent him to the ICU, where he continued to bleed out.
Due to the loss of blood Richard was without a proper amount of oxygen to feed his brain. After a second surgery to repair the damage, and blood transfusions, Richard was not the same.
Sonya soon realized Richard was missing pieces of their life together. He remembered some basics, but his core memories were gone. His personality was not the same and he was a shell of what once was the man she loved. His personality would no longer be the same without the memories to inform him of who he’d previously been.
Richard had to overcome great obstacles and relearn even the basics. It was hard and he struggled. He started to gain new personality traits and made up never-before-used pet names. He started to like foods he had never liked in the past.
All things were new to him. After months of therapy, the father of two told his wife that he didn’t remember ever being intimate. Sonya felt like she had completely lost her husband. She became depressed and considered ending their marriage.
“I was grieving not just for him but grief for the former marriage,” she says. “All of those ways that we built our lives with each other, the nuances and flirtations, the shared history. And the sexual experience, because that was important to us, and that was lost.”
Loyally, Sonya remained by Richard’s side and Richard worked hard and continued to recover. Sonya, the strong wife she was, stuck it out with him. She helped him to relearn all that was forgotten and gain new memories to replace the ones that could not be regained.
Once a loquacious social butterfly, he emerged a quiet, unobtrusive and passive man, who went for hours, if not days, without saying a word. Inhibition replaced self-consciousness. He had to be reminded not to belch in public, to cover himself in front of his daughter, to soften his fixed gaze (common among those with brain injuries) when he was in public. He cried almost every day.
Richard slowly recovered and was able to return to work, and life was a new normal. The new love that he and Sonya have found goes beyond memories. Sonya credits her husband for teaching her to love unconditionally.
WOW! Now that’s a love story!
First of all, it was love at first sight! Incredible! That’s like a fairy tale, right? How many couples do you know who were married after love at first sight AND they are still together? I can think of one in all my friends that I know.
Second of all, marrying young, let alone at 16, I can’t imagine too many people who do that anymore. Most couples who marry that young in today’s society are just not together any more, because after they hit their “7 year itch” or became “empty nesters,” one of them decided the “grass was greener on the other side”.
Third, when issues like anger and/or alcoholism enter a marriage, many couples don’t survive that either, it takes a lot of hard work to support each other and continue to stay strong in your marriage.
Fourth, Cancer Sucks! If a couple can survive one spouse having cancer, that in itself is a miracle. Many couples that I know personally who have had cancer, one spouse is not living any more. Cancer alone is a battle. Let alone cancer recurrence.
Fifth, having a spouse go through surgery is tough enough, but a 10 hour surgery with complications – Holy Cow!
Finally, how many of YOU could have done what Sonya did – survive loving again a “new” person, with a “new” personality? That must have been incredibly hard. I can’t even imagine! Just ONE of these variables, let alone ALL of these variables or situations in one marriage is hard enough, but Sonya and Richard experienced them ALL!
In closing, as I read this story, I am reminded of my own son’s wedding and the words of our minister. He told my son and his wife, each year on their anniversary to take out their wedding vows and ask each other “How am I doing on those wedding vows?” You remember those don’t you? The ones that say:
“Will you love, honor and cherish him/her in sickness and in health, be true and loyal to him/her, as long as you both shall live? ”
Yes those are the ones! Well, Sonya, I would have to say, YOU are doing JUST FINE!
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
Written by Nancy Hayes
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