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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 36 - Caregiver Limitations

We're linked to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday...drop by for some excellent marriage resources!

We would do anything for our spouses, especially when they're in distress, and even more so when the hourglass is running, running, running...

But there are things you just can't do.

You can't keep their spirits up.

You can encourage and support, you can storm Heaven with prayer...

But for your dying spouse, staying positive is a choice, and it's one he or she has to make.

It's not easy, because when death nears, the things one once enjoyed can start to seem useless, mere time fillers to keep the mind distracted.

After all, what's the point in planting flowers you won't see bloom? That others will see them bloom leads to the answer, but the doorway that leads to that answer is a hard one through which to pass...because it requires an abrogation of anticipation, desire, and even 'selfhood'.

In this metaphorical case, you can help. Just say, "Thank you. I appreciate your doing this."

Recognize the effort your spouse is making to keep his or her head up...without referring to it directly. Call it out specifically, and it becomes condescension.

Instead, just thank them for the little things, the things you would have overlooked in that long summer when no one was sick.

That kind of support can be construed as supplying an emotional crutch...but would you make a dude with a compound fracture of the femur walk without one?

Another thing you can't do is give someone else faith.

Dying is scary, and the most important question in life becomes - "Is there really a God?"

It's not "Am I really saved?" When the chips are down, you throw yourself on God's mercy. Period. The legalisms completely lose their meaning and weight.

You can't help by trying to convince. Don't quote Scripture, don't keep the TV tuned to Trinity Broadcasting, and for Heaven's sake don't start talking about what Heaven might be like.

Just be steadfast in your faith, offer to read the Bible together (not stuff about death and dying...the Psalms are good here), and keep going to church, even if you have to go alone.

And there's one thing, above all else, that you can do.

You can listen.

Listen to the description of their day, and be engaged - ask questions. Listen to their sorrows, and listen to their fears.

Listen to the hope for tomorrow, even if it's unrealistic, and never quash it.

That hope for tomorrow is the one thing you CAN give them.

By listening.


  1. We can knock ourselves senseless trying, but we really don't have the power to keep another soul's spirits up, do we Andrew.

    Admitting this is true frees the try-er up to simply love, simply listen, simply be present.

    And maybe that's enough?

    1. It's enough, but only up to a point. Encouragement of an existing or latent interest is also vital, and sometimes the caregiver has to lend heart-and-muscle power.

      And the ill person has to be willing to accept it. A condition of 'asking for help' should NOT be set, because then it becomes a pride battle. Just a simple, "Hey, I see you're working on XXX...is there something I could help you with, like, say, YYY?" is what's needed.

      Really needed, in many cases, because it's easy to forget that even being close to death, a person still wants to contribute something, still wants to feel a part of the dance. They just need a hand.

  2. Such simple gifts that we can give and they mean so much to a dying spouse, Andrew. Somehow, as humans, we think we must do more and find far grander, and more profound ways of showing our love, when it's really just being with our dying loved one that makes the biggest impact. And these small and meaningful gifts you've mentioned are the most treasured across the board--not just with a dying spouse. Thanks for sharing your heart once again, my friend!

    1. There was a song, from the Fifties, as I recall..."Little Things Mean A Lot". That's so true, because they're obviously done for their own sake, while grand gestures are almost always tinged with the possibility of an ulterior motive, even if that motive's just as an ego-prop for the giver.

      And yes, just being there...that is so important, because this is one of the loneliest places there is.

      Thank you so much for being here, Beth.

  3. Andrew, I have gained such insight from you reading your heart; reading your "advice" - if you will - for those of us who may be in your shoes, or in Barbara's shoes. I have always had a problem with know exactly what to say to a person who, for instance, has just been diagnosed with cancer; has just lost a loved one...etc. etc. Sometimes, depending on the person, I just hug them tightly and let them know they are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Your words shared with us all impact what we can do or say; and coming from one who is "in your shoes", it makes it all that more important to know and remember.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and soul...hugs may not be appropriate for one who is in pain; however, consider yourself (and Barbara) cyber-hugged!! And prayers continue...

    1. Barbara, a hug, and perhaps your tears, are the best presence you can provide.

      It's my privilege to be here, to be able to share this trip, to let y'alll know that love and joy and something of a future can STILL bloom...even now.

      I'll admit that physical hugs hurt now; I can only get an A-frame hug from my wife. But cyber-hugs are much appreciated!

      As are prayers.

  4. This is a precious gift to me today. Watching my uncle deteriorate quickly leaves me wondering the best way to bless him and my family. Listening was one of the easiest (and hardest) ways to invest in those I love while I can...just being present.

    Praying for you today and thank you for sharing!

    1. Oh, Dawn, you're in my prayers, right now. I am so sorry about your uncle.

      Your love and intentionality show in your words; I'm sure that he's blessed by your presence, your thoughts, your love.

      Thank you so much for being here today.

  5. This is a precious gift to me today. Watching my uncle deteriorate quickly leaves me wondering the best way to bless him and my family. Listening was one of the easiest (and hardest) ways to invest in those I love while I can...just being present.

    Praying for you today and thank you for sharing!