This post is from the soon-to-be-dead-dude's perspective...a gift one can give one's caregiving spouse. Can give, and in most cases should.
I'm going to die before my wife does (barring anything really weird happening). I do not want her making the rest of her life a mausoleum through which she wanders down the years, her footsteps echoing in the stillness.
She deserves better.
I'm not replaceable as an individual; no one is. God made us unique, and after we were 'done' He broke the mold.
Especially, some might add, in my case. Some things you don't want to try twice.
But I am replaceable in the context of a marriage relationship.
bd I have to be, do leave the best possible legacy for my wife. I have to leave her with the feeling that marriage was worthwhile, that she will miss the kind of companionship I provided.
And I want her to hope that she may find it again, because she'll have decades yet to live, if all goes according to the statistical norms.
But how does one accomplish this? How do you leave a legacy of love that is severed in a clean break, and not a festering wound?
I don't know, but I think it might be done this way...
Love but don't cling. In other words, don't get sentimental and spend evening poring over scrapbooks and photo albums, going down memory lane. Spend time together, but make it time spent in the moment, or looking forward, even to a future one might never see.
Don't mention the elephant in the room. It's fine to say, "I think that when I'm dead you should remarry", but one should not dwell on it. Returning to the subject can create a feeling that the dying person's really insecure, and will put just a touch of poison into any love potion that may be quaffed...after. Don't do it.
Encourage independence. The caregiving spouse should be encouraged to have a life outside the battlefield that terminal illness creates. Whether that is involvement with church ministry groups, or membership in a gym, or just going for a walk in the evening and communing with the great outdoors...there should be a link to the life that is pleasant, and free from the spectre (to some degree, at least) of impending death.
This is not a suggested carte blanche to start dating before the body's in the ground, though I know of an instance when that's exactly what happened. The brother of a friend of mine was dying of a particularly unpleasant cancer; he had two kids, and a wife who had a degenerative disease, and could not work.
So he encouraged his wife and younger brother to date, while he was still alive, because they did like each other...and he put his family''s welfare ahead of his own feelings of possessiveness.
It worked. The transition for the widow and the kids was as smooth as it could be, and the world rolled on - I was lucky to be a confidante, They were happy, and still are.
But this is the exception; in most cases, there's to much human nature that gets in the way, and too much emotion. A relationship that starts and becomes even mildly romantic, even in a restrained and completely appropriate manner, before the spouse's death is unlikely to survive the upheaval that will follow.
That said, I hope that my wife already knows someone she might choose to spend the rest of her days with (even if that thought has not crossed her mind). I hope that he understands the ordeal she's going through now, and respects her for it. I wish them both all the happiness in the world, with a full heart.
I know her well; she's not made to be alone. Her happiness transcends everything, including my ego.
(In case you're wondering what I'd do if the shoe was on the other foot...I'd never remarry. But I'm a completely different sort of animal; for me, solitude is natural, and I've lost so very many people that I know that somehow, they're close...if Barbara were to die before me, I'd still be living with her, in a manner of speaking, and no one would be allowed to take her seat.)
Help me out, here, please...again, this one was kind of a nightmare to write, because I'm still making the transition from resenting that someone might be walking through my 'life' to simply wanting the best...and letting go of the hooks that might lock my wife to a memory.
What did I miss? What might you disagree with...or at least have said differently?