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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 50 - Listening To Doubt

When the curtain looks like it's about to fall, it's almost universal that a dying person is going to go through a period of reflection.

What did my life add up to? What did it mean?

When the horizon's clear, and we feel that our days are still many, we tend to look at each day as an opportunity to catch up - to correct at least some of the mistakes we've made, to catch up with those dreams that shimmer tantalizingly out of reach.

And when the test results come in, and you know that the days are, truly, numbered, you end up doing the math.

This is what it adds up to, this life I've lived.

Some people can look back on a life well-lived, but others - perhaps most, especially those life feels like it's being cut short, feel like they're leaving behind too much unfinished business.

And that their lives are like Shakespeare's tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

If your terminally ill spouse falls into this category, it can be heartbreaking.

Heartbreaking because the life you shared, the love you shared, will be dissected and found wanting.

What can you do?

First, remember that this is not about you. It's about loss, and grief, and anger. It's rage against disease, and the prison of time in which your mate is suddenly placed. And it's anger against God for not fulfilling the promises we assume He makes (which He doesn't; he promises much richer rewards, but they're hard to see when you're hurting.)

It's hard to step back, but this is the time to put on something of a professional face, and this is why it's so important to have your own life, apart from the role of the caregiving mate. When you've placed your whole identity into the role you're playing, you're terribly vulnerable to hurts that are certainly not intended...but that nonetheless may never heal.


Second, listen without trying to fix it. Your husband or wife may have to travel to this road to come to some sort of closure. Many people need it, some don't, and you generally won't know until it happens to your spouse...or to you.

It's a process, really. And as painful as it may be over some days or weeks or months, it can, in the end, bring a measure of peace...well, I did my best.

Arguing - trying to point out even obvious failures of logic that paint a negative picture - just puts you in an adversarial role, and may cause your spouse to fight his or her corner, to fight for that negativity.

Sort of like the quarterback getting confused, and running to the wrong goal line.

But there are times when you do have to point out evidence to the contrary, evidence that shows the true worth of a life.

But when?

Simple. When it's in the form of a question, and not a statement. "My life sucked" asks for a response along the lines of a wordless hug.

"Do you think my life sucked?" is a plea for alight, to illuminate the past and to create coherence from what feels like chaos.

Third, go for diversion. Reflection's never a terribly useful thing, even when good eventually comes of it; there are just too many dangers. It's an emotional minefield.

Encourage hope, and a connection to the future. I still work on the aeroplane I'm building, even though I know I am not likely to finish it, let alone fly it. But just the act of fashioning a small part - even if it takes me ten times as long as it should - is still a heart-leap into tomorrow.

Yes, I have to talk myself up, sometimes, not to feel it's futile. Actually, sometimes means every morning.

Another way to give a connection to the future, if circumstances allow it, is to get a puppy or kitten. There's something about developing that relationship, and seeing the growth of character, intelligence, and the bonds of love over a fairly short time that nothing else can match.

And it can be lifesaving; there have been documented instances of life being prolonged through the positive attitudes engendered from the love of a dog or cat.

What do you think? What else would you suggest, both as a way to keep yourself sane as a caregiver, and to help your husband or wife?

We're linked with Testimony Tuesdayand with the Wedded Wednesday,

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 49 - Alone In The Fight {FMF}

We're here for Five Minute Friday, hosted by the gracious Kate Motaung; it's a five-minute timed writing challenge based on a keyword, which this week is...alone

We're also with Weekend Whispers, and Inspire Me Monday.


Dying can be a pretty lonely business.

It prys you away from the life that rushes past you, and throws you into a gyre in which everything is redolent of raw meat and steel and gunpowder.

Every day is literally life and death.

You don't get to escape; there are no days off. There's no respite time.

The enemy isn't at the gates; he's in your living room, and you're fighting hand-to-hand while your family's watching TV.


And that's as it should be.

I don't want my wife to experience the change in worldview I have gone through; she has had her own changes, inevitably, but to her there's still something to be gained from cheering on her favourite on America's Got Talent.

She can still experience the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat as it applies to sports; it can still matter to her, because she can step back. I want her to have that respite.

I can't. My life's narrowed down to a single point; get through the next minute, and keep writing, keep trying to make this all mean something.

That's life and death for me.

I don't want her to be in this sometimes humourless and always ruthless vale of wrath.

I want her to have the sunlight.


As an extra note, the support she has given me, and that of my online family, has been something I could not do without; 'alone' in this context doesn't discount those. It merely means that I have to refrain from making my situation the most important thing that's happening in my wife's life (it is, but I don't need to emphasize it), and refrain from making it all revolve around me.

Life goes on; it should, and I want it to.

The last few days have been among the worst I have faced; I am glad to still be living. Being afraid to sleep, in case you don't wake up...saying to your wife, "Well, just in case...if this is it, it's been fun, and I'd do it again" followed by a fist-bump...all that's kind of a bummer.

And this post was terribly hard to write. I don't want to face these things; I don't want to have to do this analysis, this dissection of a fell process.

But it's my job.

We're linked with the Wedded Wednesday,

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Problems with Paratroops - #BlogBattle

Taking a short break from the "Dying Spouse" series...it's another Tuesday, another #BlogBattle, hosted by the wonderful and talented Rachael Ritchey! (We're also connecting with Thought-Provoking Thursday.)

Today's keyword is troop.

Problems With Paratroops

Charlie had planned ahead. He'd placed a bunker complex right where we would be working with a platoon from the 101st Airborne.

This was going to be interesting.

The Dude was keeping watch with the binos. "OK, enemy in sight," he said suddenly.


"It's a butter-bar..."

I waited, dreading what the next words might be.

"And he's got a map."

There is nothing more dangerous than a second lieutenant with a map...unless it's an Airborne second looey with a map.

The Dude lowered the glasses and shook his head. "Just when I was getting accustomed to the thought of staying alive."

The Airborne officer strode up to where we'd laagered the tanks. He rapped sharply on the fender of the New Guy Tank with the butt of his .45, and was then directed over to us.

"Hello, men. I've got a job for you." He sounded like he'd just watched a few too many John Wayne movies.

"Yes?" I said.

He looked up at men and put his hands on his hips, crumpling the map. "Yes, SIR, sergeant." I guess messing up his map had irritated him.

"Sorry, sir. What can we do for you?" I remained seated in the turret. No need to expend energy until I was told to.

He spread the map out on the fender. "We've scouted a bunker complex...would you please come down from there, sergeant?"

I sighed, loud enough for him to hear, and swung myself down. The Dude followed. Biff and Sonny had been relaxing on the back deck. they sat up to listen.

"We've scouted a bunker complex here." He pointed at the map, and then turned to point ata treeline in the distance. "Right there. It's a big one. At least a half-dozen classroom-size, and the camo on top is fresh."

The Dude picked up the binos to scan the treeline. "Ah, sir?" he said in his most respectful voice. "Sir?"

"Yes, what?" The butter bar was impatient.

"It's more over there, don't you think?" He pointed thirty degrees off from where the lieutenant had indicated.

"Hmmm. Yes. That's where I was pointing!" He waved his arm more generally now. "Over there."

"Of course, sir." The Dude was carefully glassing the treeline, and the ground in front of it.

The officer turned to me. "You're going to assault that complex, sergeant. My men will follow once you've taken out the main structures, and we'll mop up. You will use HE, and individually destroy each bunker. Is that clear?"

It was clear, all right. The Dude stepped in before I could destroy my own career by replying.

"Tanks don't work that way, sir."

The lieutenant looked at The Dude as if a case of c rats had just opened on its own accord, and spoken to him. "I beg you pardon?" he said.

He really said that. I guess the Army really took this officer-and-gentleman thing seriously.

The Dude went on. "Sir, we operate with infantry support. We need your guys around us. Alone, we're sitting ducks for anyone with a satchel charge or an RPG."

"That's absurd. You have armor, you have weapons..."

"And we can't see out, except through the viewing blocks. Besides, an RPG will go through more than a foot of armor."

The lieutenant looked at me. I nodded at The Dude. "He's got more experience here than I do, sir."

"Some commander you are...well, son," he said to The Dude, "how do you know that?" He was at least five years The Dude's junior.

The Dude said mildly, "Because an RPG went through the glacis of my first tank. Thirteen inches. I wasn't driving them, otherwise I wouldn't be talking to you now."

"Well, now isn't that why you have hatches? So you can see the threat and kill it?"

I couldn't resist. "Well, sure, but we make awfully good targets for snipers. They sort of know where to look, sir."

"Well, now if you're scared, you should have said so."

The Dude stepped close to the lieutenant. "Sir, my TC isn't scared of anything in this country, or this war."

"He's afraid to do his job!"

The New Guy crew had drifted over to hear if we were really going to go out and commit suicide at the orders of this idiot.

The Dude remained calm and mild and venomous. "Well, sir, I'll tell you what. With TC's permission..." He looked toward me, and I nodded. "He'll drive, and I'll ride the commander's cupola."

"Well, at least somebody here's got guts."

The Dude smiled. "No, sir. It's just that I'm expendable."

The lieutenant nodded, and said, "Well, be that as it may. H-hour is zero-five-hundred zulu."

Sonny spoke up. "Pardon me, sir, buh, what's that tahm, heah?" Zulu was GMT, which didn't mean much on the other side of the world.

"Figure it out, soldier!"

"Marine," said a deep voice behind me.

"Wha...uh..." the lieutenant was looking over my shoulder as if he'd just seen God Himself. "Uh, sir!" He threw a salute that would have knocked him cold if it had been any sharper. Perhaps that would have been a mercy for him, given what followed.

I turned, and behind me stood a full-bird, with leathery skin and crinkles around his eyes that made him look kindly. "Hello, sir," I said. I didn't salute. You don't salute in the field, because that identifies officers for a sniper.

The colonel smiled, crinkling his eyes more. He said to the lieutenant, "Son, we don't call these boys soldiers. They're Marines. We want their help, so we don't insult them."

The lieutenant looked like he'd swallowed a yardstick from the wrong end. "Yes, sir!" This time he didn't salute, but his hand flinched. He sure wanted to polish that apple.

"Now why don't you boys tell me what my subordinate wants y'all to do." He looked at The Dude, and I realized that he'd been close by all along, listening.

The Dude explained the lieutenant's plan, and outlined our objections.

The lines on the colonel's face seemed to deepen as he listened, and when The Dude had finished, he nodded. "Excellent presentation, son. If you ever want to transfer to the Eagles, I'll sign a personnel request. We could sure use you...though I guess it would be a step down for you, eh?"

The Dude said, with a neutral expression, "Sir, I'd be honored."

"I'll bet!" laughed the colonel. "Now, I want y'all to run this assault they way y'all think it should be run. Just tell the lieutenant here what you need, and you'll do it."

The butter-bar had turned white, which wasn't surprising, seeing as how he'd been freshly castrated in front of a group of Marine enlisted tankers. "Yes, sir," he said, in the voice of a dormouse with a head cold.

The colonel ambled off, leaving the lieutenant standing there, alone among allies, blinking rapidly.

The Dude climbed back onto the tank, and disappeared into the turret. He emerged, and said to the lieutenant, "Here, catch!"

And he threw the boy a can of our highly-prized Millers.

Your Dying Spouse 48 - Listening to Fear

We're linked with Wedded Wednesday this week; please click on the link to visit, and find some really great marriage resources!

As a caregiver, sometimes the most important thing you can do is listen...and sometimes you will be listening to things you prefer not to hear.

I should be quick to say that they're not likely to be directed against you...while impending death does loosen the tongue, it's still pretty stupid to piss off your caregiver. (I'm sorry for the slightly rough language, but that's the best way to describe some acrimonious exchanges to which I have been a party.)

The hard stuff you'll have to listen to will generally fall into two categories - I'm scared, and my life has meant nothing.

Today we'll talk about listening to fear.

When your fatally ill. there's a lot to fear, and I'm not just talking about the classical fear of death. That's the least of it (and for me, it's not an issue - I've had Near-Death Experiences, but those are for a future post).

The most immediate fear is 'how much more is this going to hurt'. There are levels of pain that are simply indescribable, and that can't be touched through conventional means. (Morphine no longer works for me, unless I take enough to kill me.)

And pain is rightly to be feared, because it can kill you quick, through shock...an extremely unpleasant way to go.

Other fears are of growing dependency, of losing one's mental and physical faculties, and of impoverishing one's family with the expense of terminal illness.

They're all reasonable fears, and not to be dismissed. I was once told, on admitting I was scared, "Well, if your faith was stronger you wouldn't be afraid." That was, I hardly need say, singularly useless advice.

What's needed from you is just a friendly, listening ear. The fears are real; there really are monsters out there. Your husband or wife needs a safe place to be scared, a place to have a shoulder into which to lean.

Yes, for Christians, there are many places where the Bible says, "Fear not!"

But the whole point of the Agony in the Garden was that Jesus was flat-out etrrified of that which awaited Him. I mean, of all people, Jesus asking to be let off a task?

It's OK to be scared. Live that for your mate - with love.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 46 - Asking For Help

Sometimes, as a caregiver, you can't go it alone. And you shouldn't.

Dealing with serious or terminal illness in a spouse is probably the most challenging thing you'll face. It tears at the emotions, it can undermine faith, and it can be physically draining.

And, for good measure, it can be a financial disaster.

Let's look at each of these in order -

Emotional exhaustion, sometimes called compassion fatigue, is almost impossible to avoid when you're watching the person you love the most in all the world fade painfully from this life.

With the best will in the world to meet the challenge of each day with fortitude, the demands pile up quickly - your obligation to be the support (sometimes the only support) for someone in extremis, the demands of having to work (sometimes in a distracted state), the requirement to be there for your kids if they are still living with you (and sometimes if they're not), and not lastly the need to be emotionally attentive to friends and family, to keep those vital connections up.

Just writing it is tiring.

Emotional exhaustion sets in when you simply start getting numb; the pathos of the situation fails to move you, and you become more a master of expediency - how to accomplish the required tasks - than a steady source of uplifting support. (And that engenders guilt, just to make it a bit worse.)

The only way to really fight this is to preserve parts of a life that is yours. Whether it's being able to take a few hours on a weekend to play tennis or golf, or it's limited to getting a latte at Starbucks on your way home from work...do it.

It's not selfish. This is the preservation of life - yours. Emotional exhaustion arises when your identity starts to become lost, subsumed in the ongoing tragedy that's become central to your life.

But you are not dying. Not yet, anyway, and you have to reinforce the feeling that life does, indeed, go on. It's not heartless; it's necessary. If you're religious, remember that you were created with just as much value as the person in your care...so you have to be within your own circle of care.

And don't do it alone; keep up those trusted friendships in the safety of which you can find help by simply being able to rage against the injustice of it all, without being judged or condescended to.

Faith can really take a beating, in this situation. You see an illness, pray for healing...and it doesn't happen. There are those who say that you didn't pray hard enough, or you didn't use the right words or 'form' for your prayers.

This is sheer nonsense. Everyone dies; Jesus, in His life on Earth, died more horribly than most...and His prayers for deliverance were refused.

In the 21st century, many branches of the church have taken a hard turn into the 'prosperity gospel', and 'signs and wonders'. God wants you to be rich; God wants you to be healthy; God wants to heal your infirmities.

Yes, He does, but He also wants you to have the free will to choose Him, not as a genie who grants wishes, but as a source for hope that's eternal, and not temporal. Are there healing miracles? Sure, I think there are; but I believe they follow the pattern of those described in the Gospels, in which the healing was performed as part of a larger function. An example, if you will, and not an end in itself.

As someone who'd definitely like a healing miracle (and as I write this I am on the backside of the worst day I have had), I can accept that God may have other plans; and that healing as athe result of 'penny-in-the-slot' petitioning would actually work counter to His requirements, in creating free will.

Of course I'm going to worship a God who answers this prayer, but the point is to believe when He seems to be absent.

I think the best counter to this kind of disappointment-undermining-faith is to consider the history of Christianity. Horrible things happened in Jesus' time, to perfectly nice people. Eleven of twelve Apostles met nasty ends. And we revere martyrs.

It isn't about God blessing us with book contracts (so important to a writer!), or placing us in an advantageous position for promotion. It's about trusting God to be there, giving us the comfort we need to survive when we're looking into a fearsome abyss.

To maintain our faith, asking for help can be vital; no religion, least of all Christianity, says we're supposed to go it alone. Almost every church has support groups, and most have specific support groups for caregivers. Get involved; it's a place where you can be free to cry, and to doubt...and to have your tears dried, and your doubts gently healed.

And, when you participate...you're helping others, as well.

Physically, caring for someone can be trying; ask my wife! Sometimes she has to be my 'other leg', when walking is difficult; and she's had to drag me inside, when I collapsed in the yard from a spasm of pain.

Add to that the time-consuming stuff of having to bathe someone, and maybe feed him...and keep a tally of medication...along with life's normal demands.

The best way to face this is...wait for it...self care. Thi is the time to watch your nutrition, and exercise as you are able, and catch sleep when you can (if sleep deprivation is a problem.

Here, you can ask for help by having an accountability partner...someone who knows your situation, and who will keep tabs on you...and will exercise with you.

And finally, finances. Dying isn't cheap. I have no insurance, and part of the reason I don't take pain meds is that I can't afford them, and especially can't afford the blood tests every three months that are mandated by recent legislation (the tests were over $600, last time I checked).

You may need modifications to your house, to allow wheelchair access...or you may need a hospital bed.

It's very hard to ask for help with money; in this culture we are taught to be self sufficient, and to 'neither a borrower nor a lender be'.

But there are times when you can't go it alone. We have received help; we have had to ask for it, when multiple disasters hit at once.

And I am so grateful that it was offered, and given. Some we have been able to pay back; some of it...probably never.

There is a large serving of humble pie that goes along with dying.

And I guess that is part of the lesson...because when we were in that position, I asked myself...if I were able to help a friend or family member, would I hesitate? How would I feel if someone forebore to ask me, when I could have given that aid, and instead suffered in silence?

I'm no saint, no philanthropist...but I'd like to think that at the times I could help out, I did.

It isn't a matter of paying it forward, or what goes around comes around...it's just that life can beat you into the ground, and sometimes we can't get up alone.

As you might imagine, this was both awkward and difficult to write...especially the last bit. What do you think? What can you add?
And if I got some of this wrong...where's the error?

We're linked with Inspire Me Monday, and TestimonyTuesday.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 47 - And Not To Yield

Time again for Five Minute Friday, hosted by kate Motaung. Please drop by for some really fine timed-writing essays, inspired by a keyword...which, this week, is FIND.


"...to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

That's the last line of Tennyson's poem Ulysses, which describes the discontent of the Trojan War hero on his return home, and his determination to face old age on his own terms.

"...it may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
it may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
and see the great Achilles, whom we knew."

In this journey to death by vicious illness that I would never have chosen, there are things I am learning...one of those is that to the people physically around me, I have become the illness.

It's the sum total of what I represent, and contribute.

But there's so much more...

"Tho' much is taken, much abides, and tho'
we are not now that strength which in old days
moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are."

I can still do things that few others can do; I was a master metalworker. Those skills may largely be in abeyance, but they are not lost. It may take a week or even two to do what once took a day...but I can still do it.

But I am defined, for others, by something I abhor, and if I want to retain something more, it has to be my job to seek it out again.

To find it.

And never, ever to yield.

Even if no one is looking.


These are getting tougher and tougher to write...I've got to go deeper, and there are things I might rather not share. But I HAVE to.
Otherwise, I'll be writing, living - and dying - a lie.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Human Oasis - #BlogBattle

Time, once again. for this week's short-fiction keyword-inspired #BlogBattle, hosted by Rachael Ritchey.

The keyword this week is OASIS.

A Human Oasis

Biff kicked me in the head, to wake me. I think he enjoyed that little dig at authority. "Tanks coming back, boss."

I'd been lying in the shade by the New Guy tank, trying to sleep away a bit of the day, because Charlie had been keeping us up nights with mortars. War is hell, and makes me cranky.

"Oh, good. They didn't get lost." The Dude and Sonny had been tasked to run down the beach, to pick up a stranded VIP. Apparently Oceanview was going to get its very own USO show, and the APC carrying the act had thrown a track. So we had to provide a taxi, while the APC crew and the escorts reshod their lame mount.

It was a strange feeling to see our tank - our home, after all - moving with me in it. I could see The Dude in the driver's position, the big gun turned slightly so it wasn't over his head, and Sonny was sitting in the loader's hatch atop the turret, one hand on the side of the commander's cupola, leaning in to talk with the person who was standing in what was normally my place.

This someone was dressed in a set of utilities, and wore a CVC helmet, but the long reddish-blond hair that cascaded out from under the helmet wasn't Marine issue.

Biff looked at me. "Do you know who that is?"

I shook my head. This far up-country, I'd expected, at best, a Filipino pop group with huge amps and a small repertoire.

"I think it's Ann-Margaret."

The tank ground to a stop...a very smooth stop, short of our revetment. The Dude used the gun tube to lever himself out of the driver's position, and Sonny stood on the turret. Both were extending their hands, formally, to help our VIP.

Who, when she took off the helmet, was indeed Ann-Margaret.

"Hi," she said, with a bright smile. 

Sonny took her hand, beating The Dude by a heartbeat. "Gennelmen...ah'd lahk ta innedouce y'all to Miss Ann-Margaret." He bowed, and held out her hand with a flourish that almost pushed her off the turret.

The arrival had not gone unnoticed, and the grunts who weren't on duty started drifting toward us. They moved shyly, and often stopped to talk among themselves, in small, anxious groups.

Ann-Margaret's smile faded, just a little. She was used to being crowded, and jostled, and pawed. These boys with old mens' eyes, who manned the closest outpost to the Z, were an evolving mystery.

The Dude stood next to her. "Ma'am,, why don't we get off the tank?"

She looked at him, puzzled. The tank was a kind of stage, placing her above the spectators. "The guys there...they're kind of worried, ma'am." The Dude pointed north. "We're a little exposed, standing here."

"Oh!" She smiled again. "Of course." She looked around. "What's the best way to get down?"

Sonny had slid down the glacis in front, and was holding out his arms. "Just let our friend there catch you...that's right...just slide on down..."

Sonny caught the actress, very gingerly, and set her on her feet. He received a kiss on the cheek, and under the grime and stubble that covered his face, a blush rose. He stammered something that sounded like "Aw, shucks". At least I hoped that's what it was.

There were no microphones, and there was no stage. There was just one gracious, lovely, and slightly bemused young woman standing amid a group of shy and retiring killers. She led them in song, and signed their boonie hats and web gear and Bibles.

She kissed dirty cheeks, and hugged bony shoulders that were worn down from heat, humidity, and the carriage of weapons.

She took names and addresses, and promised to write to parents.

The war stopped for a moment, when Ann-Margaret dropped in.

Too soon there was the sound of rotor blades; a Huey was coming to take her away. She knew, and we knew, but before the beat of the blades destroyed the moment, there was time for one more song.

"You'll Never Walk Alone."

As she finished, I looked to The Dude, and then looked away, for he was crying.

Your Dying Spouse 45 - Stages of Grief: Acceptance

Today we're linked to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

And so, to the last letter of DABDA...A for Acceptance.

We've gone through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression...and now we accept...what?

What exactly are we accepting as the caregiver for a terminally ill spouse?

And what is the dying person accepting?

There are really no facile answers here...have I accepted that I'm going to die of this? No. I've accepted that I'm in the fight of my life, but I'm not giving up...not by a long shot. I'll fight to live with everything I have.

I don't want to die. I do not accept the death sentence. I accept that the outlook is not good, sure; that's not hard, especially seeing what has happened to me over the past few months. But roll over and wait for the Reaper?

Not hardly.

And what does acceptance mean for my wife, or for any caregiver?

Just this - that there is the possibility, or the probability, that she will be a widow sooner rather than later, and that life as we knew it - as she knew it - has changed. There are different priorities now, and things like painting the living room are no longer at the front of the line.

Doesn't mean the living room won't be painted; it just means that the chance to spend time together, going to McDonalds for an ice cream cone if I'm well enough, takes precedence.

It also means looking ahead and planning for things that might be unpalatable...the need for a hospital bed, for example, or oxygen, and home hospice. The time for denying that stuff is past; it may happen, and the caregiver has to be willing to consider the possible need, and budget time, space, and money.

It means looking at what happens if and when death does occur...burial or cremation? A service, or nothing special, just dispose of the body in the most convenient manner...after all, it's the Klingon way.

And it means considering what lies beyond that permanent change.

Stay in the same house, or move? (Most experts suggest waiting a year to make that decision, unless finances force the issue.)

Consider remarriage, or not? (Again, most experts advise a waiting period...but this is a subject we'll take up in a future post.)

The point is to look at these questions...things that will have to be addressed if the illness matches the prognosis...to look at them without denying their reality, or resenting them and reacting in bitterness.

That last, that's the key...

Acceptance is the laying aside of denial and bitterness, and choosing to live the life that's there, however hard it may be, with all the goodwill and faith one has at one's command.

For the religious, it's the taking of God's hand, trusting that His guidance will be sufficient unto each day ahead, however harsh it may be.

Acceptance is saying...

And I'll do my share, to make the best of it.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 44: Stages of Grief: Depression

We're back to the DABDA model, for its fourth component....depression.

In case you're just joining us, DABDA was developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, to give a framework for the grieving process. While not all people experience the stages in the same order...and not all people even experience all the stages...the most common progression is denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

So here we are with depression, and yeah...death can be pretty depressing.

From the inside, being the soon-to-be-dead-dude, I can say that what I find worst is looking around at the landscape of my life, and knowing that this time next year I won't be part of it. My books will be given away, my tools will be used by other hands, the projects to which I've given sweat and sometimes blood will be finished by others...or scrapped.

And so it leaves me with a heavy heart...

Nah. I can't keep that up. At one time, thinking about that did cause a twinge, but, really, not more than that, because I've had the privilege of living a lot of life downrange from people who wanted to kill me (and I'm such a nice guy!). Death has always been at my elbow, and I can be irritatingly cheerful even when blood loss leaves me so weak I can barely rise.

It isn't depressing, for me. It just is, and it's incentive to make every moment count.

But for my wife...

It's not easy for her. She has other confidantes, and that is a good thing - I am the last person she should be talking to, regarding the depression she feels.

It's not that I don't care, and can't offer comfort...it's because much of the caregiver's depression is centered around what has happened to his or her life, and that creates a kind of evil dichotomy...

  • Being depressed because you can't live the way you want to when someone is dying seems so trivial...
  • ...and because it seems trivial it make's one's life seem trivial...which almost makes it the unwitting fault of the dying spouse.
In other words, one gets depressed at what life has become, feels shame because it isn't all that bad, considering, and is angry because that comparison 'has' to be drawn in the first place.

Does that make sense?

The thing is, comparisons are useless. Comparing pain levels, for instance...a hangnail hurts. So does a gunshot wound.

But the fact that a gunshot wound is more serious does not make the hangnail hurt less. Only if you've had both can you make that comparison..

My wife has not been down this road. I encourage her to go to the gym when she can, and when she talks about sore muscles...it's a good thing, because she's finally learned that keeping silent, and drawing shame from the well of comparison, is not necessary.

She used to say, But I shouldn't complain...and that did not make her muscles any less sore.. She felt that my condition...and in effect, I was silencing her.

Beyond changes to one's own life...yes, losing a loved one is difficult, and painful. The best thing you can do to counter it...both as a caregiver and as the dying spouse...is to make sure that the moments you have together are well-spent.

Not in the tragic 'our time is almost done!' mode, but with intentionality, and with care, and with the conscious putting-aside of those things that cause conflict and division.

It's tempting to say 'depression is a choice'...and leave the onus on the depressed person to lift herself by her own bootstraps. That's what a lot of pop psychologists do, and it's not fair. The situation's really depressing.

It's also tempting to say, Just turn to Jesus!" Well, yes, you should, but remember the shortest and perhaps best-known verse in the Bible..."Jesus wept."

Bad stuff happens, and it will make you sad. But you can melt that ice that builds around your heart through some fairly straightforward steps.
  1. No comparisons...your pain is valid
  2. Talk it out, but not with the 'source' of the sadness
  3. Clear away - or at least put aside, with counseling - divisive issues
  4. Spend the time you can with your mate, not because he or she is dying...but because you married this person, out of love.
In the end, love will triumph over depression, and over death.
Hope floats...and Love soars.

We're linked to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 43 - Learning To Let Go {FMF}

Time for Five Minute Friday, a timed writing challenge based on a keyword, hosted by Kate Motaung.

Today the keyword is learn.


We've talked before about the dichotomy you experience as a caregiver. You're very much in the present, because that's where you have to be to help your terminally ill spouse.

But just as the life of your husband or wife will soon end...yours must go on.

And to be effective in the world, and a proper witness to the love you shared, you have to go on with your head high, and eventually a smile.

After all, would your mate want the rest of your life to be miserable? I don't want that for Barbara. I don't want the decades she has left to become an echoing memorial, marble replacing her warm heart.

She has to learn to let go, and so, dear caregiver, do you.

The first step in letting go comes when you accept the situation; when you face the bad news with sorrow, but without flinching.

Second, you have to maintain an active life that is yours. You're not beholden to death, but to life, and your daily choices have to reflect that.

If you have hobbies, keep them up as best you can, even if only through reading magazines. They may seem silly and trivial compared to the seismic wrecking you're experiencing, but they are anything but that in reality. They are supports that tie you to a wider world, and bring the wider world back to you

If you exercise regularly, don't stop, and if you don't exercise...start. It's easy to fall into a sedentary trap when you're a caregiver, and it's one of the worst things you can do. Being sedentary makes it easy to start brooding, and it invites a negative attitude that will be hard to shake later.

The endorphins you generate are the fuel on which positive thinking and positive action run. That you can stay positive will help the person in your care, but more importantly...it will help you. It will make you that much more resilient, and when the time comes for the maximum stress to begin...and it will, ere the end...you will be, not ready, but prepared.

Third, continue going to church, and if a support group for caregivers is available, go. You need helping hands now; you will need them more later.

Finally, when you are spending time with your spouse, do everything you can to be mindful, and present in each moment. Turn off the cell phone, and don't carry on a conversation while you're typing away on your laptop. Close the cover and give your spouse full attention.

Learning to let go in a way that brings grace has to begin with knowing how to hold on.


What do you think? Are these effective methods? Can you suggest some more?

We're linked to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Timex - #BlogBattle

And here we are for this week's #BlogBattle, hosted by Rachael Ritchey. It's a short fiction writing challenge based on a keyword...this week, it's TIME.

And now, let's return to Viet Nam, and Travels With The Dude...


The New Guy Tank was parked outside what passed for a luncheonette...an open-sided hootch with a couple of kettles being tended in the shade, and patrons squatting outside, scooping their haute cuisine from cracked and chipped French crockery.

The New Guys were happily chowing down in what little shade their M48 offered. Their plump, sleek bodies that filled their fresh utilities were about to be pared down by dysentery, but they didn't know that yet. 

"Join 'em, or go on?" The Dude's head was poking out of his hatch, and he was looking toward the New Guys gettin' local. The main gun was turned just a little, so if we hit a mine he wouldn't be catapulted into the barrel and break his neck. Good drivers were hard to find.

I sighed. "We maybe better talk to them. At least try to convince them to avoid the Pepsi." The Pepsi which occasionally contained ground glass.

The Dude pulled us over to the opposite side of the highway, which was a one-and-a-half-lane dirt track...pretty spiffy for these parts.

"I'll go," I said.

"Meter's running." The Dude must have been a cab driver in an alternate life.

The New Guy TC saw me coming, and stood, hesitantly, wiping his not-so-clean hands on his still-too-clean pants. "Uh, hi, sir." His corporal's stripes were sown on crookedly, with a little curlicue of thread showing joyously, here and there. He looked as if he hadn't shaved in days...because he didn't have to, yet. Were we really giving tanks to kids? 

"I'm not a sir." I waved for him to sit back down. His tank's motor was running, and I had to speak up.

The New Guy TC had a name, but I had worked hard to forget it, because if he got killed then I could forget him more easily.The nameless passed like wraiths from Viet Nam, and only their families really cared.

"You know, this stuff can make you pretty sick." I looked around at the New Guy crew. They matched their TC in their absurdly rapt expressions...absurd because they'd been told not to do exactly what they were doing now. Two of them were still chewing, and dropping grains of rice from their mouths.

"Oh, no, su...uh, sergeant!" New Guy TC gave me a big smile. "Doc Green said all we had to do was take these!" He handed me a foil-wrapped packet.

"You do know what these are, don't you?" The Dude had turned the driver's seat over to Biff, and had wandered over to help me out, as New Guy care and feeding was a deep swamp to climb.

The New Guy crew swiveled their attention to The Dude.

"They're suppositories."

The uniformed innocents looked at each other, eyes wide. The one who looked oldest, and who wore a watch on each wrist, elected himself as the spokesman. The New Guy TC deferred to him. "Uh, if I may ask..."

"An educated man," murmured The Dude. "Pray continue."

"What's a suppository?"

The Dude blinked rapidly, opened his mouth, and then shut it again. He looked helplessly at me.

I shrugged.

"Sonny!" The Dude turned, and waved to our loader. "Got a question for you!"

Sonny had been lounging on the fender, and he stood up. "Wha's y'all wants t'know?"

"Timex here want to know what a suppository is."

There was a sudden murmuring among the Vietnamese patrons; apparently one spoke English, and he briefed his countrymen on what was happening.

Sonny gave his audience a big smile, turned around, dropped his pants, and, using a .45 cartridge, gave a convincing demonstration. His face grinned upside-down from between his ankles.I almost couldn't bear to look. There are atrocities, and then there are atrocities.

Timex's face was white, and the New Guy TC was quietly depositing what he'd eaten onto the red soil of Viet Nam.

The Dude put an arm around Timex's shoulders. "Son," he said, "why are you wearing two watches?"

"So I can know what time it is here, and what time it is back home."

"What did you guys have for lunch?"

Timex looked nervous, and made every effort not to look at Sonny, who had maintained his abominable position. "Chicken and rice."

"Well, Timex, here's a suggestion. For now, why don't you set the watch on your right wrist an hour ahead of the one on your left."

"Uh...why?" Timex's Adam's apple was bobbing nervously.

"Because when your left writ catches up with where your right wrist is now..."


"That's when you'll need the suppositories."

Your Dying Spouse 42 - Stages of Grief: Bargaining

"Just get me through this, God, and I'll become a priest!"

It's hard to say how many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines said those words, or something very similar.

A lot of them didn't enter the priesthood...but a surprising number did, and accounted for something of a boom in priestly vocations and calls to the ministry after the end of the Second World War. (For an example, read the story of Sgt. Jim Revell in John Toland's masterful Battle: The Story of the Bulge.)

What this is is bargaining. It's offering God something - in this case one's future life - in exchange for having a future life, and in 1969 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross formally recognized this as the 'middle stage' in her model of the grieving process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (the DABDA model).

None of us want the change in life that a terminal illness brings; both the patient and the caregiver would far prefer that the cup would pass from them, untasted. At least for now.

And so, bargaining. It sounds a bit crude...I mean, how does one strike a bargain with the Almighty?

But looking deeper, it's a very human response, and one that should be both recognized and valued.

It's not silly. It's not stupid. And it's not futile.

Generally, those with a terminal diagnosis will bargain from the standpoint of lifestyle; they will identify - rightly or wrongly - something they did that they feel caused the problem, and vow never to do it again, in the hope that it's still worth closing the barn door after the horse has gone.

Quitting smoking may not eradicate one's lung cancer, but it can improve the remaining moths or years...and it sets a good example.

And that is really the point, because when we bargain, we recognize that there's something in our life that shouldn't be there...but we hold onto it anyway. It may be smoking, drinking, gambling...whatever it is, what we're doing is offering up our sins in exchange for a blessing.

The blessing we want is a temporal deliverance from the affliction, but the blessing we get may be far more valuable.

Because the thing we're now, at last ready to give up is generally what is causing the largest breach in our relationship to the Almighty.

This works for the caregiver, as well, though perhaps a bit differently in specifics...usually, bargaining comes from the feeling that one didn't appreciate the time with the patient nearly well enough.

"Just a few more months or years, Lord, that's all I ask...please let me make it right."

And that is the key to making it right now.

So you see, bargaining can work. It can give us the opportunity to lay down the chains that have hobbled our souls, and receive into those now empty hands a measure of grace.

Severe grace, to be sure...the outcome may not be changed by bargaining.

But we are.

(I've tried to make this post as accessible as possible to those of all beliefs...while I am a Christian and write from that perspective, I do not want anyone to come away feeling put aside, but the bargaining part of DABDA is almost exclusively connected to a relationship - of some sort - with a Higher Power, even if that power is made manifest in 'fate'; bargaining has to be a two-way street, for it to be significant in this application. That said, I would appreciate any comments or suggestions for improving the outreach of this subject.)

We're linked to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday, a wonderful gathering place in which you can find untold riches to benefit your marriage.
And no, I'm not exaggerating. The stuff there is really good...if you are willing to use it.

We're also linked to Mom's Morning Coffee., and 3-D Lessons for Life.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 41 - A Life In Ordinary Time

I'll be back to Stages of Grief in my next post, but since today is our 13th Wedding Anniversary, I wanted to share it with you. And I wanted it to be written down, so that if this happens to be our last anniversary in this life, Barbara can revisit it, and see what I hope is the depth and breadth of my love for her.

It was not a splashy day of exchanged cards and gifts. I was up at 0500, letting some of the dogs out, and watching the sun come up. I like to see the moments when the corona first peers over the mountaintops (the Manzanos), as if it's checking that the world's ready for the sun to leap out onto the stage.

Barb came out at 0730 or so, looking a bit worn; she'd had a restless night. Something called 'hot flashes', or, as she prefers, 'power surges'. (We can't share a bedroom; for one thing, I don't sleep much, and for another, if I am asleep, it's dangerous to wake me...when startled, I tend to leap toward what caused it.)

So I gave her kind of a side-hug and a kiss - I can't really hug properly any more, because there's too much pain and pressure in the upper abdomen, right side especially. So it's an A-frame side hug...and Barb can pack a lot of love into that.

When she got her breakfast and the dog duties were done, we watched Mel Gibson in The Patriot. It's a haunting tale, and while it has some historical inaccuracies (the British did NOT incinerate women and children locked in churches...the Nazis did that) it still gets to the meaning of patriotism, and of what people find, to their own surprise, what they are willing to sacrifice to win their freedom.

After that, I cleaned the filters for the tank in which Barb's snapping turtle (named "Mr. Turtle") lives. I hate cleaning the filters just enough to make sure that Barb never has to do it, but I do like Mr. Turtle...he's playful. When you feed him, if you hold your fingertip above the water he'll jump up, grab it - not painfully - and hang on. And he watches for me, and has some sense of when feeding time is.

And then Barbara bathed Bella The Miracle Dog. Bella is a ten-pound terrier whom we found struggling in a water-filled ditch, her back broken. With a lot of PT, she has learned to stand, and is learning to walk again, even though her spine was not only fractured but displaced.

But Bella has longish hair, and easily gets dreadlocks...so bathing is required frequently. She's pretty cooperative, for a feisty little terrier who exercises effortless control over 80-pound pitbulls and a 150-pound Rottweiler.

And then Barb went to the gym and ran some errands, and I had a cigar (which helps in the absorption of pain meds) and, with a couple of the dogs, watched part of Die Hard.

Bruce Willis once had HAIR!

Barb brought home a couple of milk shakes from Sonic (mine was root-beer-vanilla, a great taste!), which we drank while watching a bit of the old classic The Best Years Of Our Lives. I say 'a bit of'; because the schedule is run on Canine Stomach Time, and feed me! is an unmistakable message. Can't ignore it, either.

Dinner was a slice of gluten-free pizza, which Barb grilled to real perfection. She does the outdoor grill thing, not me!

And so to this moment. Barb has gone to bed, after saying (pardon the language, but I want to be accurate), "You're a pain in the ass but I love you anyway."

I allowed that, yeah, I am, sometimes, and she said she was only teasing.

But she has had the harder road. She's dealing with this illness (which was caused by a botched surgery in 2002, a couple of months before we were married). She's dealt with PTSD, and feeling like she always had to be hypervigilant when we were out together.

Like the time when we were at church, and our next-door-neighbor tapped me on the shoulder. I spun and would have decked him had Barb not knocked me off balance...good thing, because he's a lieutenant in the local police force.

And the current days...I can no longer work, obviously, and leaving the house is impossible except for absolute necessity. It hurts too much to ride in a car, and when I get home I'm wrecked for the day.

So she's got to do almost everything. And she does it with love and compassion, and without complaint.

And that, dear readers, is why I wanted to invite you to this very special, and very ordinary day. There were no grand romantic gestures, no adventures, no candlelight, no passionate sex (I'm far too ill for that).

Just an ordinary day, with the acknowledgement of its specialness, spent together by two people who happened to fall in love in 2001, marry in 2002, and who still love each other very  much.

It's far more than I could have hoped for, or dreamed.

We're linked to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday, a wonderful gathering place in which you can find untold riches to benefit your marriage.
And no, I'm not exaggerating. The stuff there is really good...if you are willing to use it.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 40 - Here Tomorrow?

Time for Five Minute Friday, the timed keyword-inspired writing challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. (And we are also linking with Still Saturday.)

Today's word is HERE.


My Dear Caregiving Spouse, I want to be here tomorrow...and for as many tomorrows as possible, after that.

But I need your help.

Hope floats, they say, and hope has to be something tangible, something real. It has to be the lifejacket that carries you through the rapids when you fall out of the river-dory, that keeps your head above the roiling water.

And that is why I do things that puzzle you, my dear...I work for a future that neither of us believe I'll live to see. I push myself to begin writing projects that will take years, and other things that tax my energy for a goal that's over the horizon.

Over life's horizon.

I know you mean well. I know that you want me to rest, and not be in more pain than I already am.

I know that you don't want to see me kneeling on the floor, puking blood.

But you don't know, I think, how deep my desire to stay really is. I have to generate the hope that comes in activity, the hope that comes with plans, the hope that comes with dreams.

I need you to understand that, Dear Heart.

I need you to be interested and involved, because I can't navigate these rapids alone. I need you, leaping from rock to rock along the shore, to shout encouragement. I need to hear your voice.

The cause may be lost already, but it is surely lost if I don't try, as hard as I can, to fight for my right to live.

For my place here, in the sun.

With you.


That was a hard one to write, so here is a treat for y'all...and it fits the keyword!


We're linked to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday, a wonderful gathering place in which you can find untold riches to benefit your marriage.
And no, I'm not exaggerating. The stuff there is really good...if you are willing to use it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Eye Of The Storm - #BlogBattle

A break from the Dying Spouse series, for this week's #BlogBattle, hosted by Rachael Ritchey...a writing challenge and contest built around a keyword.

This week it's EYE.

Eye Of The Storm


The scream was like nothing I'd heard before, and it came from the dimness of the western treeline in the tropical dawn. The red dirt road that stretched away from the bridge we were guarding was a soft pink in the early light. It might almost have been beautiful.

I had been lying on the aft deck, watching the stars fade. The Dude had radio watch, and was sitting on the edge of the commander's cupola, smoking the first cigarette of the day. "Well, that doesn't sound good," he said.

Sonny and Biff were down with the grunts who were occupying the fighting holes, and they looked up. The grunts did, too, their new-guy faces pale in the wan light.

The scream came again, and The Dude said quietly, "Oh, for Pete's sake."

"What?" I got to my feet and stood next to the turret.

He pointed across the Rome-plowed ground, a 200-yard kill zone opened up to the treeline. Alone figure was trying to run across the furrows the plows had left. A military age male, he was dressed in a blue smock, and black shorts. He was barefoot and bareheaded, and he obviously wasn't too clued in on weapons or tactics because he was running toward our position clutching a claymore with one hand, and a clacker in the other. The wire that led from the clacker to the detonator looped around Charlie's legs, occasionally tripping him. And he was screaming.

The Dude looked down at the grunts who were beginning to cluster around the tank, and sighed. "Borrow your rifle?" he asked a Marine who looked like he was still in junior high.

The rifle was handed up to me, and I passed it to The Dude.

"I almost hate to do this," The Dude said, putting the rifle into aim.

"Mercy killing. Too stupid to live."

"Yeah. Well, goodnight, Charlie." He pulled the trigger, the M-16 cracked, and Charlie flopped forward into the dirt. The claymore arced into the air, and his hand must have closed on the clacker in a couple of dying spasms, because it went off and lofted its thousand ball bearings harmlessly into the air.

The Dude shook his head, and gave me the rifle to hand back too the grunt. The kid took it eagerly, and I wondered if he'd carve a notch in its plastic stock.

"Hey, TC, could you get on the radio for a bit?" The Dude held out the CVC helmet he'd been wearing.

"Sure. Take your time." I assumed he needed to relieve himself, but I was wrong.

The Dude pulled an e-tool from the gipsy rack on the back of the turret, and asked the watching grunts if anyone had a Bible.

"I'm gonna bury the guy."

There was a ripple of laughter, which was doused by The Dude's expression. He was serious. "Look, first, leave him there, and he's gonna stink by noon. Second, if it was you, wouldn't you feel just a bit better if Charlie took the trouble?"

They wouldn't bury us, I thought. They'd mutilate the remains, hoping that we were still on the bright side of beyond. But I didn't say it.

The kids were nodding, and standing a little apart, so were Sonny and Biff. One of the grunts stepped forward. He was big, with the build of the high-school football player he'd probably been a few months before. "Uh, sir?" He even raised his hand deferentially.

The Dude looked at him. "I'm not an officer."

"My dad's a preacher. I could...uh, give you a hand. And I've got a Bible." He fished a small combat edition out of his blouse. "Here."

"OK. Get your e-tool, too."

Watching them walk off across the Rome-plowed waste, I motioned Sonny and Biff onto the tank. "Biff, get on the sight, and scan the treeline. Sonny, get the cannister out and load HEAT." If the whole thing was a ruse to get us puzzled, it was working...and if the dead guy's pals were waiting in the treeline for us to do the stupidly American thing we were doing, I wanted to be ready. We'd have to shoot past our guys, and cannister would shred everyone downrange with cheerful impartiality. HEAT wouldn't do much to Charlie unless it hit him, but having an almost four-inch-wide projectile whistle past your ear, that would sure get his attention.

I reached down off the side of the tank. "Gimme the rifle again." It was passed to me without a word, and after I put the helmet on, I started scanning the treeline. Next to me the turret rotated back and forth, as Biff used the gun optics to do the same thing. Sonny and Biff were on the i/c, and I could hear them breathing.

Out in the field, The Dude and the grunt had reached Charlie, and they got to work, spadefuls of dirt flying.

The other grunts were clustered around the tank, fidgeting like college freshmen at their first formal.

And then one of them set out across the plow lines. Two more followed, and finally the whole platoon was moving in a shaky line toward the gravediggers. The only ones left were the new guy platoon sergeant, and the kid whose rifle I held.

He looked up at me. "Could you be sure to give me back the rifle?"

I nodded, and he set out as well. The sergeant shook his head, and then followed as well.

"Talk about a burial party," I said.

"Huh?" Sonny was on the left side of the turret, ready to reload if we were contacted, and couldn't see out.

"All the FNGs...they took off to watch...well, wait." I lowered the rifle, and shaded my eyes with my hand, to narrow the focus and see better.

"Well, now I've seen everything."

"Everything what, TC?" Biff was still rotating the turret, his eyes on the trees. Good boy. He hadn't been distracted like me.

"They just put him on the hole they dug...covered him up...and they're holding a service. That preacher's kid is reading from the -"

"TC, I got Charlies in the treeline." Biff's voice was urgent.

I followed where the main gun was pointing, and there they were, half a dozen MAMs in dark tops and shorts. They were all carrying weapons, but they weren't putting them in aim. They were juust standing there.

"Light them up?" Biff was ready to do his job.

"Wait one." 

The service was over, and the grunts were straggling back toward the road. They hadn't seen Charlie in the trees, and they were slack. Easy, fresh FNG meat.

But Charlie was just standing there.

The new guy platoon gathered once again around the tank, talking like a crowd that had just gotten out of midnight mass at a Christmas in the World. Hushed, not wanting to break some kind of spell. I gave the kid back his rifle; he took it like I was giving him Communion. 

The Dude climbed up the glacis armor. "Didn't expect that," he said.

"Neither did they." I pointed across to the treeline, but Charlie was gone.

"Who, they?"

"Never mind."

Your Dying Spouse 39 - Stages of Grief: Anger

Today we're linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday; please visit to find some really great posts on how to make you marriage everything you dreamed it could be.

Today we'll talk about the second stage of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' 'stages of grief' model, consisting of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Time for anger. We have talked about it before, but today we'll look at how to make anger constructive, rather than a simple destroyer of one's soul.

A terminal diagnosis, for the recipient or the spouse, is an attack, period. When attacked, we have the fight-or-flight response.

Denial, which we talked about last time, is flight.

Anger is fight.

But where is the anger directed? That's the first thing you, as the caregiver, have to know about yourself.

Part will be directed at the illness itself, that inhuman impersonal assault of life. It's understandable to direct anger there, but ultimately futile. Cancer doesn't care.

Part will be directed at your spouse...you'll be mad at him or her for being sick. There may be a 'lifestyle element' (why didn't you stop smoking!) involved, but that' really immaterial. The anger needs a focus; blameless or not, he or she will receive some of it, It isn't fair, or right. It's merely true, and you've got to accept that you're human in feeling it.

And part will be directed toward God, for did He not allow this? Without diving into theology and wandering from the subject...no, I don;r believe He did allow it, bar the general terms of having a world in which free will is vital. If we have the free will to choose, it follows that the world in which we live has some exercise of free 'will', or the randomness of disease. I do believe that the Almighty stands ready to help us, if we only ask Him!

And you will be angry at yourself, for not being good enough, for not having headed it off...somehow.

But how to make the anger work toward the good? In Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines Arnold Schwarzenegger says, "Anger is more useful than despair."

Granted that he's playing the role of a cybernetic organism, but he's right. Anger generates energy, and sandpapers the senses. Anger can lend strength.

It can make you keep looking for treatments or pallatives when the younger you, the you without this shadow in her life, would have cited fatigue and gone to bed.

This anger can find your spouse lying on a gurney outside the imaging center, chilled and uncomfortable, and have the energy to raise Cain to get the staff to respond - now.

And this anger can give your spouse courage - we're going to beat this thing!

Maybe you will, maybe you won't but it's sure better to walk the days in hope, that you can come out the other side together, and alive.

And driven by anger...