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.)
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