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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 71 - Overwritten

Memories are forever, except when they aren't.

One of the truly nasty things about a terminal illness is that the experiences you're sharing with your dying spouse now will, and I repeat will overwhelm and subsume the happy memories you had of a normal life together.

Medication and bedpans will replace marriage vows and birthdays.

Vomit will cover the memories of vacations. Pardon the bluntness - this is reality.

And you will find that as death approaches, it will be something of a relief, and the shared joys will be as pictures in someone else's family album.

There is a remedy.

Reinforce the good memories.

Talk about them. Watch the videos, spin up the  photo albums, and write things down

Write down the remembered conversations you cherished.

And, again bluntly, write down how you felt about your physical love. It'll feel weird. It'll feel maybe improper.

Just like Solomon's feelings for his Shulamite bride were improper, eh?

I guarantee you this...when you set yourself to that task, when you tell someone who loves you and who is going to die that you are working to preserve the memories of your life together, you will do more good than a passel of preachers.

We all want to be remembered well. We all want to live on in the memories of those we love, as a reminder of happy times.

We don't want to be remembered in the way we died. This isn't a stupid Hallmark movie, where death comes with dignity and violins.

Death is horrible.

Please, guys...if you take one thing from this series, this last best effort I am making, let it be this...


I hope you'll excuse the urgency, and the passion.

You see, we didn't do this. And the good memories...

...are pictures in what feels like someone else's album.

And it can't be fixed.

We're linked with InspireMeMonday and Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

I treasure your comments - circumstances have made my replies slower than I would like; I hope you'll bear with me.


  1. Feeling the heaviness of your words like lead in my middle.
    Lord, you are the One who said that you can give beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. This would seem to be a miracle in this case -- something only You can do. Please give Andrew eyes to see the invisible.

  2. This is such a beautiful and important reminder. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share the blunt truth with us. We need to hear it. Coming to visit from #inspirememonday. I'm glad I did. I'm going to share a link to your blog on my blog series about grief and depression.

  3. The legacy of love we leave will not be covered by the final steps of the trail. Our legacy spans a lifetime ... and if we are fortunate, when all is said and done, there will be far more joy and beauty and laughter and goodness to remind us of the one who has departed.

  4. Feeling your pain, Andrew--at least in part. I truly hope that things turn around for you and your wife. You have such a great love for her and "I" would love it if she'd recognize what a great man she has before that great man is gone. She will one day, I have no doubt. But until then, thank you for your gifts to all of us. Words that we should be living by even if our mate is not terminal!

  5. Your advice holds true for marriages that seem rocky, too! Sometimes, we have to make a conscious effort to remember the good times and why we felt that way about each other in the first place. All too often we let the petty things cloud our good memories.

  6. Andrew, I wish I could fix everything you and your wife must deal with. I pray for you both every day.

    By the way, I got your book and loved it!

  7. Andrew,
    you're right. Even the memories of children and their stages are lost when not recorded. Imagine my grief over the loss of two years of photographs and videos when we backed up our computer and then thought we'd burned a disc and 'didn't need the backup' anymore.
    Yet, some of the memories from that chapter are best forgotten. A very dark time in my life. It was a time where I was angry with God and shut Him out of parts...I was grieving and angry and bitter...not memories I'm proud of, so in some ways I thank Him for wiping out the videos we took of our daughter screaming uncontrollably with no rhyme or reason. It would have tortured all of us to see those in ten years.
    And, I did post some photos to Facebook, so I've got to let go. My mom doesn't have films of hardly any of my childhood. I'm trying to cling to the past instead of being present.
    In your case, yes. Write your love story! One sentence in a mason jar, whenever something is worth writing, it will add up! Blessings, brother. I'm so sorry that I cannot make this any more bearable, but I'm so thankful for your words.

  8. Andrew, thank you for your frankness. I wish I had done more of this with Rich before he died. That I could have given him that gift. His refusal to accept that his death was imminent made things harder.

    God showered me with grace. Rich has been gone 5-1/2 years and for a very very long time it seemed like I would never remember anything but EMS at the house, hospitalizations, all the trauma and drama that goes with a prolonged illness. And then one day... miraculously, to me ...I saw a picture of him and a flood of memories washed over me. The good ones. Love and laughter and teasing and touching and kids and parties and even silly arguments over typical husband/wife things ... NORMAL things. And while I will probably will always remember every detail of his illness and death, now when I hear his name, when someone says "Rich," even if they don't mean his name, I feel a flood of love and remembering so much good.

    I don't know if this helps you at all but it is my prayer that it will.

  9. I had time in hospital during my son's chemo to document a life-long friendship with my best friend, who was dying of colon cancer. I made a scrapbook for her and we laughed our way through those pages on the last visit I had with her. I want to ask her husband for it back, but don't have the courage to take something away from her boys. So, to add to your advice, make copies, when you write down those memories. And Andrew? Your wife will remember and the joys WILL overwrite the sorrows. The 'right now' you guys live in makes it hard to remember, but it will all come back to her in ways that she will cherish.

  10. Such great advice, Andrew. My husband and I have to get creative sometimes with our fun activities when I don't feel well. We have a God Box and all our memories of our life and love are in it. My short-term memory isn't great and so this has notes, I Love You's, movie stubs, wine corks, a map of trip, etc. Everything we have done is in here. It is so special to both of us.

  11. This is such a powerful exhortation. I promise to do my best, to do better, at preserving the memories of life while I'm blessed with the ability.

    Praying for you!

  12. Your words apply to the gift of simply growing old together, day by day -- thank you. Age and stage may suddenly change -- and you have reminded me: OVERWRITE DEATH, BY PRESERVING THE MEMORY OF LIFE.

  13. Your words apply to the gift of simply growing old together, day by day -- thank you. Age and stage may suddenly change -- and you have reminded me: OVERWRITE DEATH, BY PRESERVING THE MEMORY OF LIFE.

  14. Yes, Andrew...we must preserve those memories; those good memories not the bad that seem to over-shadow the good ones. Share our memories together, while we are able to do that! Afterall, there WAS a reason, "once upon a time", why we came together in the first place!

    Thank you for reminding us to share those memories, NOW while we still may do so! Always in my thoughts and prayers, Andrew, and your wife as well.