I was at a Memorial Service last weekend.
It was a different kind of service. For a different kind of man. Tim Dunn, the brother of my father-in-law, John Dunn, fell into a pool and bumped his head at age 24, and was a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
He died at the age of 58 of a stroke.
Usually, at a person’s memorial service, you might hear friends speak, or a minister, or one of the children, and this service had all that. It also had two people you don’t usually hear from — two doctors. Neurosurgeons.
And both of these men stood up and said something remarkable. For all their sophisticated science, both attributed the fact that this man had been able to live 34 quality years — to work from his bed, to author a book, to devise and market a board game, to put a son through college — not to anything medical, but to the love of his wife.
Poetry, literature and music are full of testament to the power of love. Here is a demonstration of it.
Barb Dunn had been married to Tim for a year and a half when he was paralyzed. Their son was 10 months old. After the accident, Tim was despondent, and told Barb that if she wanted to leave, he would understand.
She was insulted. She stayed. She became his caretaker, but did not stop being his wife. In a short biographical piece written about him for the memorial, she is quoted as saying, “I never treated him like a paralyzed person. If I want to tell him to shut up, I tell him to shut up.”
Said Tim: “She treats me like a man.”
And this man, recipient of bad fortune that many of us cannot imagine, was also the recipient of a quality of love that few of us will know.
The life expectancy of someone in Tim Dunn’s condition is not long. But he lived 34 productive years, saw his son graduate college, knew his grandchildren.
And even his doctors acknowledged, while medicine helped him, it was love that sustained him.