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What Does "For Worse" Look Like?

Their love survived...their parents' illnesses

Just days away from toasting their first wedding anniversary in February 2004, Greg Stewart and Diane Connell received a phone call that would change the Los Angeles newlyweds forever. Diane's mother, they learned, had had a stroke. A month later, she suffered a second. As Diane struggled to come to grips with the grim prognosis and negotiate her mother's health-care needs, Greg, 35, did what many people are taught to do in this situation. "I tried to get her to talk about it," he says. But his efforts backfired. "I knew he meant well, but his need to engage me felt almost intrusive," explains Diane, 32. "If he got me talking about my emotions, I'd unravel and burst into tears. To keep it together, I just needed to shut down and shut him out."

Greg may not have understood Diane's need then, but he got a crash course two years later, when his own father, who has emphysema, was rushed to the hospital; he was not expected to live. Now Diane learned what it was like to be stonewalled. "It was eerie to see this unresponsive, unemotional side of Greg," she admits. And occasionally her desire to know what was going on in his head got the best of her. "She'd hammer away at me and I'd be begging her to stop asking questions," Greg says. But over time, they both learned that "being there" sometimes required giving each other space. "We'd go for hours without talking to each other, which we'd never done before," Diane says. It felt strange at first, but eventually, when one of them would least expect it, the other would open up.

"The experience revealed a facet of our relationship that we never knew existed before," Diane says. "You don't know how strong you are together until you've journeyed through the worst, and come back." Their parents are now in stable condition, and the couple no longer takes anything for granted, especially each other. "Everyone knows their parents are going to die someday," says Greg. "But when you actually face the abyss, you truly realize they won't be in your corner forever. And that's when you learn to really see your spouse as your family. It's a very comforting feeling."

Their love survived...the death of their child

Eight years ago, identical twins Jade and Jillian Pasley had barely celebrated their first birthdays when their parents, Jessica and Irvin, got devastating news: Jade had acute myelogenous leukemia, a cancer with only a 50 percent survival rate. Doctors warned that Jillian would develop the disease as well. "When I heard this, I dropped to the floor and cried," recalls Jessica, 40. "How much bad news can a mother take?"

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