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Health & Sex

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What Does "For Worse" Look Like?

Their love survived...their parents' illnesses continued...

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?"

Jade passed away on February 4, 2000. For months afterward, her parents wandered around in a fog, visited Jade's grave daily, and tried to move on. By springtime, though, as their son's baseball league started up, Irvin was cheering from the stands. Jessica, however, still felt like she was going through the motions, and resented Irvin's ability to enjoy life a little. "One morning I was so upset I was pounding on the walls," Jessica recalls. "Irvin asked, 'What's wrong with you?' in a tone that suggested he was mad at me. And I was mad at him for being so low-key. He was stoic." Irvin had had his rough moments, too—he once broke down during a routine checkup when his doctor simply asked, "How are you doing?"—but he felt the best way to honor Jade was to get things back to normal. "I missed my wife, and wanted to make up for lost time," says Irvin, 39. "It was frustrating to have a good day, then get the life sucked out of me as soon as I walked in the door."

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