On my husband’s thirtieth birthday

My favorite tricenarian

My favorite tricenarian

I haven’t been able to touch Sergey’s hands for four months. But I can picture them: strong, gentle, scarred. The thick scars run down the fingers of one hand, the result of a woodcutting accident at work when he was a teenager.

Sergey’s hands are gentle despite the wound. They delicately peel mangoes and pomelos for us to share. They write loving messages. They hold my hands, keeping them warm, keeping me steady.

Over the thirty years of his life, Sergey has sustained many wounds deeper than the cuts on his hand: the adversities that have beset him from infancy. I marvel at his strength, his early maturity. Photos of Sergey from his teenage years show a mature man with a set jaw and prominent cheekbones, as though in his desire to support his family, he skipped boyish adolescence to grow up faster.

When Sergey finished high school, he started working full-time and attending university, where he graduated at the top of his class. Besides working constantly, he also made time to serve his community. At age twenty-six, he was elected to the national administrative body of the Bahá’ís of Moldova—and later that year, he started his term of service at the Bahá’í World Centre, to which he has dedicated three years. (He also met and married me, but that’s another story.)

My Siryojka has transcended mere perseverance. He has taken his afflictions, and instead of letting them scar him with bitterness, he has transmuted them into compassion, kindness, and commitment. There is a line in the Bahá’í prayer for husbands that says, “make him one of Thy angels whose feet walk upon this earth even as their souls are soaring through the high heavens.” If you ask me, I think my earthbound angel’s soul is already soaring pretty high.

Today, Sergey is in the midst of his latest test, the immigration process, which relegates him to “alien spouse” status and has forced us to live thousands of miles apart. But, in his typically selfless manner, he takes on the role of the comforter, reassuring me in our daily calls that it is just a matter of time.

How I wish I could envelop my beloved husband in a warm hug today, when he enters a new decade of his life, a hug that would tell him how much I value him, how abysmally painful every day of separation has been. How I know we’ll be together in all the worlds of God, for all eternity, but how badly I want to be with him right now.

Since I cannot hug him, I offer this story, a small birthday gift to remind him of what he has accomplished, and who he has become: a gentle, loving man purified through adversity.

To my husband, my partner, my soulmate—happy birthday, and congratulations on all you have achieved in your first three decades! I look forward to seeing what we can do together in the years to come. But most of all, I (desperately) look forward to seeing you!

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