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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 59 - Slave to Time

We're linked with Wedded Wednesday, hosted my the terrific Messy Marriage site.

When death is on the horizon, even though it's like a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, the way one handles time changes.

For the dying, time takes on a very different shape. It becomes a very finite resource, and there are some things which you, as a caregiving spouse, may have to learn faster than you'd wish, and deal with...even when it's hard.

First, the most important thing in your mate's life will be quality time spent with you. This may seem like a cliche; but please, don't approach it that way.

We want to think that the intimate realization of mortality makes us wiser, and makes our hearts softer. It does, in many areas. But sometimes the difficulties inherent to just being human take over. Calm acceptance on the edge of Eternity would be nice, and sometimes it's realized.

But not always.

First and foremost, the petty disagreements and fights that are a part of most marriages are seen as a sort of small tragedy. The Sunday that may be ruined over in-law troubles,or a credit card bill is something that can't be regained. When you're healthy, there's always tomorrow. The storm will blow over, and good feeling will be restored.

But when the hourglass is running out its sand, it looks different...because by the time things are back to normal, one's physical condition may have changed such that the moment can't have a do-over.

Kara Tippetts mentioned this in one of her blog posts; she spoke of the day she realized that she'd probably driven a car for the last time. And soon after, her husband had to make the necessary but painful call to Hospice.

There will be a last time for everything, and you don't know when that will be...but you know it's coming. It makes one want those moments, those experiences, to be 'perfect'.

They can't, of course; nothing in this life can live up to the ideal we hold, and that dichotomy of desire and disappointment can make for some emotional swings.

Please understand this; if there's disappointment it's not directed against you. It's a reaction to the coming loss, and the loss of second chances.

Life often offers do-overs; Barbara is my first and second wife; there was a divorce in there. I'm so very grateful for that do-over.

But now, it's different. What's done will have to stand.

You can help, simply by recognizing this. Just understanding that things that seem everyday to you will loom large in the heart of your husband or wife.

Second, if your spouse is still able to pursue an avocation, you may see unexpected anger when things go wrong, and something may need to be redone. It's an odd kind of perfectionism; the avocation, or hobby, has become a large part of engagement with the world. It's your mate's proof of life.

And losing the time needed to redo something, or correct a mistake, can become more frustrating than you may realize.

For a writer, say, losing the day's output to a computer problem is unpleasant. But for a terminally ill writer, there's the feeling of a race against the clock. The pages that have to be rewritten mean - or seem to mean - that there's less of the work that can be finished in time.

The pressure is on, to get it right the first time.

Please be patient with this. It's hard, I know. It's not easy to watch the person you love the most berating him- or herself over a mistake they made in not saving the document. And the anger shown toward that (blankety-blank) software can seem disproportionate.

We're doing our best; because time is now so very precious.

What do you think? Have you seen this happen?

(And yes, I may have driven a car for the last time. A dear friend is coming to town next week...and I'm no longer well enough to go with Barbara to have lunch with her...and trying to talk around pain makes even having a conversation a challenge. I can write, but talking...well, it's slow and halting, and words have to be forced out through a barrier of pain.)

We're linked to Inspire Me Monday.


  1. Time is such a precious gift especially now. I'm sure you and Kara Tippetts could share stories. And I'm sure you will in that heavenly place. I'll admit I treasure our time here in this space. I know one day I'll come here and you will have gone to your eternal home. That will be a sad day for us who have gotten to know you in this space but it will be a day for you to celebrate as you are no longer in pain. Bless you Andrew!

    1. I wish I had met here 'here', but no worries; she'll probably be surprised out of her sandals when a squatty Chinaman comes up to her and gives her a big grin and a high five.

      As I write this I do feel a lot closer to Eternity than I would like, but I will leave claw marks on the clouds when the angels try to drag me up there. I'm still having too much fun HERE, and besides, God needs more time to get Heaven's breakables stowed.

      Because even He has heard of how Asian rugby players party.

      Thanks for being here, Tara. Your presence always makes me feel good; I appreciate you.

  2. Thanks for addressing this whole issue of time ... such a commonplace everyday thing that we ignore until we're forced to look at it square in the face.

    Fascinating that although many activities you love you've had to let go of, you're still going strong at the keyboard ...

    1. It's a mission and a ministry, Linda. I won't say it doesn't hurt, the physical process of writing...but I'm always glad to have done it. The pain will pass, but if one person is helped by this, it's all worthwhile.

      Thank you so much for being here...and you are in my prayers.

  3. I'm grateful that you remind us of what the terminally ill is feeling in key moments, Andrew. When I look at "time" or "lost time" through the lens you've just provided, it makes perfect sense how it intensifies the emotions to the point of anger or irritation. When dealing with a person going through what you're going through, I'm sure there has to be a constant reality check of what is beneath it all--emotions that we may never fully grasp, but can try to in the heat of the moment. I'm sorry to hear that you're not able to get out or to drive anymore. These additional losses must bring waves of grief knocking both you and Barbara off your feet each time. Prayers are being lifted!

    1. I would have thought, too, that each setback would bring grief, but it's not so much the case. Everything hurts so darn much that aside from dealing with that, and writing, there's simply no energy left for that kind of emotion.

      Grief takes energy, and there are more important uses of that energy than to grieve for...well, myself.

      I'm really more OK than I thought I would ever be in this position.

      And thank you so much for the prayers, and for being here, Beth.

  4. Hi Andrew thankyou so much for sharing your journey- I start today as a pastoral carer in palliative care in Australia..your thoughts will greatly enrich my ministry and the care I can give to others- the transforming ripple effect of your words and your sharing will only be known in heaven- but I want to say thankyou now, God bless you and yours, Eleanor

    1. Elly, I am praying right now that your journey will give comfort to many, and fulfillment to you. What you are doing is SO very vital.

      Thank you for honouring me with your presence here. I really, really appreciate it.

  5. The Lord bless you and keep you, may His face shine upon you. Your words are well-spoken and speak to the heart.

    1. He does bless me, Norma, in many ways, not the least of which are the wonderful friends I have here...friends like you.

  6. I have seen this again and again as my hubby and I sit with those who are dying. The disagreements don't mean the same anymore. They are set aside and instead we cherish the moment because we don't know if we'll have another. We are walking this road with a neighbor of ours. In the past he has said hurtful words and acted in ways unbecoming but now when you see him struggling for every breath and getting to just sit in his front yard takes work of over an hour just to get him out there, those words of the past disappear and instead compassion is there. I've heard him tell me again and again that he loves us. He asks about the children and is genuinely interested in knowing. It's hard to see this strong man of the years past fade into what he has become now. Your words inspire me to keep crossing the road, keep reaching out because we don't know how many days we have. Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Rachel, thank you so much for being here, and for sharing this vignette.

      I think perhaps what you are seeing in your neighbour is a strong man...getting stronger.

      I will keep going. Today has been hard, and there are times I wonder just HOW I can keep going, but God always provides a way, even if it's a celestial sandal to the butt.

  7. Praying for you and Barbara, Andrew.

    1. Jules, thank you so much for the kindness and consistency of your prayers. This means a lot to us.

  8. "There will be a last time for everything, and you don't know when that will be...but you know it's coming. It makes one want those moments, those experiences, to be 'perfect'."

    Yes, this is true..."and you don't know when that will be"...yes, Andrew, so true!

    Everything you have said - it's so true...and yet, we still have a tendancy to want for perfection; to think there will be that time for a do-over. You bring it all to light for those of your readers who may not have even considered it...

    Time marches on; maybe a slower pace...but it does march on.

    Praying you and Barbara spend all those precious moments together the best you can.

    1. We are doing our best to make each moment count, Barbara...thank you!

      Sometimes time crawls...mornings are getting to be like that. Seeing barbara off to work, getting her backpack prepared and then doing the morning blog hop takes a bigger toll than it ised to, and requires a lot of rest.u
      But that's OK. One still does what on can, to the limits of one's ability. That's all God asks.

  9. "There will be a last time for everything, and you don't know when that will be...but you know it's coming."

    I try to live with a constant awareness of this. I fail...but the try helps. As one example, every time I board an airplane, I send my wife a text telling her I love her. It's a simple thing...a recognition of my own mortality combined with a desire to make sure my last communication was a communication worth making.

    Of course, it's entirely possible I'm closer to the end of this life than you are. But circumstances are such that, if so, my reminders are less frequent and less urgent.

    Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your experiences...for reminding me of the brevity of life...and for the tips on understanding a loved one who knows their time is short.

    We will sure miss you when you're gone from here...and look forward to seeing you on the other side!

    1. Joe, thank you for being here. I think that it's a very good idea to treat every parting like it may be the last one in this life. It can feel melodramatic, until the unthinkable happens.

      Pursuant to that is the thought never to part in anger. There are very few relationship quarrels that are worth having as a lasting legacy of the last time you were together.

      I don't know how close I am to the end; no doctor has volunteered this, and I do not see the need to ask. I think it important to remain receptive to the miraculous.

      As I mentioned in a reply above...I don't want to go just yet, and I will leave drag marks all the way past St. Peter's astonished gaze.

  10. Andrew,
    it was well worth the trip over to see you today. I have been praying for you a lot. You have shared much wisdom in this post today. I'm sure that you're no "miss daisy", but the loss of control, the loss of freedom, that is something to wrangle with.
    You have dignity and you have honor, and I salute your ability to persevere, enduring hardship because of your character. God bless you and Barbara.
    Pet the pups for me! :)
    Praying continually, whenever I think of you, and thanking God for you.

    1. I'm so glad you're here, Tammy. I look forward to your comments, so very much!

      There are loses, but on the whole...because everything is just so physically painful and difficult...I';m OK with them. Kind of like a parking ticket compared to Armageddon.

      I'm certainly no Miss Daisy...but there WAS a Miss Daisy here! A Pit-Shepherd mix, she was kicked out of Puppy Obedience for aggressiveness. She later became the doting adoptive mom of Mr. Independent, an equally aggressive Aussie. She died last year, aged seventeen, which is really old for either of those breeds. But we are doing something right...we have the oldest active canine geriatrics in the county.

      Pups are petted. They are mostly dozing now, waiting for me to STOP WRITING DARN IT SO WE CAN SLEEP!

      I thank God for you, Tammy, and I so appreciate your prayers!

  11. Time is one of our biggest gifts and one that too many of us take for granted and then it is too late. Your words have a way of touching all the right places as I continue to learn so much from you. Your faithfulness through your words here in this space is the gift you give to each of us. Your time here with us is treasured and one that is making a difference.

    1. Mary, thank you so much for this. Your words mean more than I can say; I put everything I have into this writing, and sometimes it's very physically tiring.

      But every day is worth it. You, and the other readers of this blog make it so.

      Thank you for being here. I really, really appreciate it.

  12. Praying for you, my friend! I'm so glad that you can 'talk with your fingers' and keep inspiring us even when you feel frustrated about your ability to speak actual words.

    1. Anita, thank you so much for that...for the understanding of what it's like. I used to LOVE public speaking...after spending decades trying to avoid it.

      It IS frustrating, but my fingers can still work relatively quickly. The mind's good; but the pain below the diaphragm makes it very hard to get words out now.

      Thank you so much for being here.

  13. Praying for strength for you ... to make that lunch.

    1. Shelli, thank you...I am praying for it, too.

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