Coping with illnessAs you get older, life brings new uncertainties and changes. Luck becomes a much more visible companion of your life, and it makes itself known most starkly in your health.

Just this year my wife Kathy was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Through the years she has stoically endured relentless pain, and has had countless surgeries on her hips, knees, back and joints. Along with the pain comes the equally corrosive allies of frustration, depression and unhappiness.

We must both live with her disease, as we have lived with all other life changes, and yet this is the hardest one. Nothing prepared her or us for this reality.

I think often of Job, whose good life was inexplicably destroyed. And as I think of Job, I also think of the Shakespeare sonnet used often at weddings: “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” Life’s unforeseen “alterations” can take many forms, including financial hardships, professional disappointment and tragic accidents. Whatever their source, life’s random and unwished for reversals can threaten any marriage, no matter how strong its foundation.

As I try to analyze what I’ve learned from the adversity Kathy and I share, I find that Job’s faith and the power of love are my rules for the road. Cruel and relentless disease tests the simple, strong connections of the heart, yet life, bringing the joyful and the unbearable and mostly what’s in between, is always fixated in the heart. What you learn is that you have to look extra hard for the good and savor it. You have to learn the art of becoming invincible and invulnerable to everything else – and to treasure the power of your enduing bond.

Many people spend their lives trying to show what love can do outside the home, beyond their own family circle: for peace, for race relations, for the poor and the disenfranchised in areas of the world where there are no human connections to build on. But our ability to heal the world can only be fueled by the inner light of love that has been lit in the family hearth. It is love that gives voice to our lives, that lets our lives speak with force and purpose.

Love is the antidote for the cruelty and violence we find everywhere in life. It begins within, a mysterious feeling that wraps itself around your heart and won’t let go. The longer it stays the longer it wants to stay, and the stronger it holds on.

Love is the emotion of the first resort. It works because it arises from that spark of the divine, the small voice within us all, and for the reason it is quickly recognized by every person it touches. Love is miraculously contagious on contact.