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A Promise Kept: the Story of an Unforgettable Love

by Robertson McQuilkin
2006 / 90 pages 

Robertson McQuilkin served as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina (now Columbia International University) from 1968-1990. His was a prestigious position, one he filled with enthusiasm and competence. Yet in 1990, he gave it all up to stay home to care for his wife. A Promise Kept tells the story of how he came to this momentous decision and what followed.

In 1978 at age fifty-five, Muriel McQuilkin began to show signs of Alzheimer’s. In the early stages, the family coped, making adjustments here and there, but gradually it became evident that Muriel would need full-time care. Robertson refused to commit her to a home; instead he became her full-time caregiver for the next thirteen years.

In a moving resignation speech he declared that, actually, the decision was easy (“Google” the author’s name and you can hear a recording of this speech – it’s worth the listen). Muriel was the most content when he was physically present. When he was not, she was fearful and anxious. Clearly, she needed him full-time. Robertson referred to his marriage vows, and that as a man of integrity he would remain true to his promise to care for Muriel until “death do us part.” For him, it was also a matter of fairness. Muriel had supported him in his work for forty years. Could he do less, now that she needed him so desperately? In the end, the decision was not hard; he considered it an honor to care for her.

In one sense, this book is an “easy read” – only ninety pages. But it is profoundly moving. Robertson’s tender care for Muriel exemplifies the love of Christ for his church. This man came to understand that doing what seems burdensome is actually freeing. “My imprisonment turned out to be a delightful liberation to love more fully than I had ever known. We found the chains of confining circumstance to be, not instruments of torture, but bonds to hold us closer.” In Muriel’s helpless dependence on him, Robertson sees an analogy of his own dependence on God. Profound lessons in a simply-told tale. Husbands and wives, read this book, but do have a box of tissues nearby.

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