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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 24 - Prickly Pair

We're linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday today.

Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

And sometimes,as a caregiver, you will feel like you can't do or say anything right.

You show compassion, you're condescending.

You respect the abilities your mate still has, and you're demanding too much of a sick person.

You try to help, and you're taking away work your mate can still do.

You let them do something on their own, and you're accused of not being willing to help.

You can't win.

It's tempting to answer back sharply, in anger, because you're doing your best, and you do care. Too much, it seems like sometimes.

But the thing to remember is that you're not the target. The fatal illness is a constant companion, at times cruel, and at times casually nasty. It can be a trained torturer, or something akin to a mean-spirited teenager, offhandedly ruining what little sense of accomplishment can be gleaned from the bad days that inevitably come.

The illness is a presence, and it's not a friend. But it can't feel remorse, and it can't be hurt.

Your mate wants to give back pain for pain, sometimes, and you are often the only target available.

It's hard to respond in calm compassion, and refrain from putting up walls to protect your heart. When you're hurt, it's natural to shield yourself. You've got to, anyway, for the separation to come.

But the separation isn't here yet, and believe me, the person who's looking into that scary place of faith and mystery feels awful for hurting you, because, in many ways...you are all he or she has.

Can you be big enough to absorb the blows? Can you be resilient enough to let what feels personal drift past, because it's not really personal at all?

It's worth trying, because that's the only way to avoid regret later. You will...once your mate is gone and the dust is settling - you will question whether you were kind enough. It's human nature; we pull back to avoid the pain of loss, and in that retreat we sow the seeds of later heartache.

To some degree, you can't avoid this.

But to some degree, you can. The seeds of retreat come from denial; your spouse is here now, and their hostility, superimposed over the impending loss, is much more real that what will happen next week or next month or next year.

Terminal illness is not entitlement, and you have to stand your ground. But you have to try to stand it in warmth.

So breathe deep, and hold out your arms, as if you're forgiving a child throwing the mother of temper tantrums.

Because we're all kids, and we're all afraid of the dark.


  1. Oh Andrew! What inspiration you share...my hubby is by no means terminal; but he does have dementia (I fear getting worse; Alzheimer's disease?), and a major hearing issue; and there are times he yells at me because of something he didn't hear or thought he heard negatively against what he has said or asked.

    I lash back; I don't act like I should in the face of his temper...yet, I KNOW it is not him but the illness and I let it go. I DO forgive...

    I love the last couple of lines: "...as if you're forgiving a child throwing the mother of temper tantrums. Because we're all kids, and we're all afraid of the dark." YES! We are all afraid of the dark; of the things we don't know - the unknown.

    Thank you again for sharing your heart...prayers continue for you and Barbara.

    1. I can relate, Barbara...when I was young I cared for a relative who had dementia brought on by lack of oxygen, from cardiac insufficiency. It was like living in a carnival funhouse, the kind with the distorting mirrors...nothing was right, or real, but at the same time it was depressingly and infuriatingly real. I didn't do as well as I might have, but I think I did my best.

      In the end, you have to look at the whole package of your response; we can be hypercritical of ourselves for lashing out, but fail to notice - and punish ourselves in that neglect - the grace we extend.

      Thank you so much for the prayers - you are in mine.

  2. Here's grace. And truth. Mercy in the midst of trials.

    Here's marriage.

    Yes, yes.

    1. Indeed...here IS marriage, and I would not have it any other way, 'cause it's real.

      Thanks for being here!

  3. When we walk we with our best friend on the tough road we realise they are also afraid. Not only for us but for themselves too. There is grace and blessing having a friend who loves you and walks the road with us.
    I am grateful for you!

    Sweet Blessings Andrew and Barbara

    1. Thank you so much, Ifeoma. I'm always grateful for your presence here, your wisdom, insight, grace, and kindness.

      A bit like having Jesus pop round for a cup of tea...you represent Him so well!

  4. So beautiful, Andrew. I can't imagine being in your wife's shoes. When she loves you and moves toward you she feels the pain of your loss so much deeper. You have no choice but to endure the pain you're suffering, but it's quite another experience for your wife who can step away from the "blade" of loss. Praying that you two find comfort in each others arms and sense the Lord strengthening you more and more each day.

    1. It's terribly hard for her, and in writing this series, I'm only dimly beginning to realize just how tough it is, and the steadfast love demanded of her by her vow, and by her devotion both to me and to God.

      I have it easy, and I'm not just saying that.

  5. Andrew, you're describing Jesus with skin on. It's hard, living inside human flesh to live out what you've described. We can do it best when we are yielded to Jesus. Your perspective makes so much sense. Your wisdom? Timeless. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. Continuing to pray for you, friend.

    1. Jeanne, thank you so much...your comment really, really means a lot to me. And so do your prayers.