by Andriel Scharff, one of Erin’s best friends, on how a dedicated spouse helps us when we live with chronic ailments…:
Recently I had the pleasure of traveling with my better half, Scott, to visit family. I currently live on Guam. While back in the States, I noticed how each home we visited had unique characteristics well-suited the needs of their inhabitants, with an aspect of each person factoring into the layout of a kitchen, the draping of a throw, or the stacking of dog-eared books.
The home that stood out the most in significance and grandeur was that of Scott’s Uncle Don and Aunt Mare. It’s a warm and inviting home, the people equally so. There is no shortage of hospitality here!
When I first met Don it was at a family gathering for Christmas. He arrived alone, Mare unable to join the festivities. She was not having a good day. Mare has a very welcoming and graceful presence. She has always loved being a hostess and would cater to friends and family for events as often as she could. Her charisma and passion for storytelling draws people in and it’s easy to lose track of time.
Mare also suffers from MS, she has been battling it for years, and finds herself unable to leave the bed the majority of the time she is home. On good days she can be up for a short period of time, and on her harder days she is at the mercy of intense migraine headaches, body pain, and more.
When considering such a disease as Multiple Sclerosis, many people have, in the past, focused on the physical ailments such as pain and muscular deterioration. Today, more discussions are had regarding the mental turmoil that accompanies the isolation of the individual and of the family members caring for them.
Going back to a time before MS took hold of Don and Mare’s life, there was a beach they regularly travelled to when the vacation bug would bite. Sapphire Beach is a tropical getaway on Saint Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Adorned with palm trees, soft sand, and sweeping views of the North Atlantic and surrounding islands, it was their favorite haunt.
Just imagine Don’s dedication: today, a beautifully painted picture of the same view they once enjoyed in person sits outside on a handcrafted deck with his and hers chairs, looking out into the same lovingly recreated horizon.
Mare hasn’t been able to fly for some time so Don put to use his art and woodworking skills to bring Sapphire Beach to her.
Even on bad days, a piece of the tropical oasis sits above her, even if she is unable to move: a massive headboard frames their bed with hand carved palm trees reminiscent of a warmer place, sun-kissed skin and a more carefree time. This is just one more token of Don’s commitment to keep the memory of their travels alive.
They had always wanted children but were unable to conceive. The love and care they would have given to a child of their own was generously showered over their nieces and nephews. They would take the kids anywhere they could, trips to Disneyland and various excursions.
The time they spent with the kids was warmly relived during family gatherings and story telling. Over the years the kids’ in-person visits have lessened as they have families of their own and/or relocate to farther destinations. Despite these changes, one thing remains the same, and that is the foundation of genuine care and commitment that Don and Mare have laid out, through good times and bad, as the younger generations follow their example.
Andriel Scharff is a dedicated hospitality professional who grew up in Washington and who now lives on Guam with her boyfriend, Scott. The couple have two cats and lots and lots of house plants!