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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 81 - Thief of Joy

We're lined to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday

When you're dying, joy can sometimes become elusive; small setbacks that you'd ordinarily shake off can become magnified, simply because there's less time to set them right, and they diminish the precious 'quality time' you have left.

The same thing goes for caregivers. Seeing someone you love fade by inches is painful, and can easily darken the days. Joy, fun, and simple satisfaction can lose their flavour, or can sometimes be shattered very suddenly...when you're laughing at a joke someone tells at work, and then you suddenly realize, "I won't be able to share these at home for very much longer."

But there's another way joy can be leached from your life...and your husband or wife can be the unwitting (or, sometimes, deliberately-acting) culprit.

A losing fight for life changes one's perspective. When the physical challenges become harder by the week, focus changes from an outward acceptance and enjoyment for what's 'fun' to things that have a deeper and more visceral meaning. Spending time on finding a 'kicky' outfit goes from a cool way to spend time to a waste of time.

And when one's looking ahead to a night of semi-sleep, broken by pain that makes it impossible to do more than just endure it, it's very hard to get excited about a football game. The team loyalties that seemed important, once upon a time, are now a silly emotional tie to what is, in the end, a very big business.

That change in feelings is real, but it's unfair to impose them on one's caregiving spouse, yet the dying do it every day, through words and (perhaps more often) body language. The Super Bowl party is met with badly-disguised rolled eyes, and a lukewarm participation. The shopping trip, which could be a wonderful chance to spend time together, is rejected in progress by sighs and "Well, I'll just wait here for you", even when the physical need to rest isn't really there.

And then there's deliberate sabotage, arising from bitterness...and you, the caregiver, are frequently the only available target upon which to vent the wrath that arises from circumstance. It's unfair, and it's inexcusable. Dying is not entitlement.

I'll give an example from...well, yesterday, of which I'm ashamed.  Please bear with me.

barbara was watching "The Voice", one of the few television shows she tries to follow. She once did a lot of singing in church, but I have not heard her sing in a long, long time.

The songs thatwere performed grated on me; though I was in a different room, I could still hear them, and I found "You're No Good" and "The Way You Look Tonight" to be the height of frivolity, and the nadir of silliness. I'm in severe pain, and yesterday afternoon had to run an improvised blood-expanding IV to stay conscious. Ihad been bleeding a lot.

When the show was over, I asked Barbara, in the guise of an 'academic question', why she liked those songs. But my motive was, shamefully, base. I wanted to vent my anger against a world that I saw moving on in tinsel and pumped up emotion while I fought a battle that I'm losing, and that is often very lonely.

Barbara's answer was direct, and to the point. "I don't want to try to explain, because then I won't enjoy them any more."

That was the perfect response, and it neatly and deservedly put me in my place. I was trying to take something from her, to place her in the dark place in which I increasingly have to live.

And that, dear caregiver, is what you have to do. You have a life; you will have a life after your husband or wife dies, and he or she does not have the right to consciously or subconsciously diminish the enjoyment that you have, or for which you have potential.

You can't help a drowning person by letting yourself be pulled underwater. Sometimes you ave to let them drown, because being lost yourself is the only other option.Yes, you can be encouraging and generous...but thathas to be accepted, and in this situation, that often just doesn't happen.

It's not selfish; it's just the acknowledgement of different roles. You will still have something to contribute after the eyes are thumber closed and the body's covered with a sheet, and you owe it to yourself, and those around you, not to let your best efforts - which are enhanced by the enjoyment of life - be diminished by 'misery loves company' placed into full and squalid action.

What do you think? Can you see another way?

This was, again, a very hard post to write, and rather painful, because I have had to recognize that I damaged, in a small way, the time that Barbara and I still have together. My words can't be called back, and even my development of a genuine enjoyment in the music I criticized will be seen as suspect, and condescension. This can't be fixed, and for that I am both sorrym and ashamed.

I will try to respond to comments quickly, but things are getting tougher bythe week, so please...be patient. I truly value your comments, and your presence here.


  1. Raising these 5 boys, I often called my sister-in-law who raised 4 - and she was a source of encouragement. I'd ask her, "Tell me the story again" - about the son who rebelled, who slung hurt - but who made it through to a full, wonderful, God-loving life. I needed to hear it because I was still in the hurt slinging stage. She would tell me that this particular son would lash out at her because he was so overwhelmed with where he was - and he lashed at her her because he knew she would still love him - he just needed to vent. It's a testimony to unconditional love - and I think your story is a testimony to unconditional love - that you hurt deeply and it needs to be lanced - and your spouse loves you unconditionally to deal with the hard stuff. Praying Shalom in your week and in this very hard time. Praying for you both!

  2. And this, Andrew --> 'Dying is not entitlement.'

    Too often we use all kinds of maladies or circumstances to try manipulate our way forward. Thanks for putting this on the table, for it's often a subtle way to say 'I matter more than you.' And simply put, that's just not true. Or fair.

    Praying for you even as we speak.

  3. So you're still human. No shame in that, Andrew. We all say stupid things that we regret. I think you're still WAY above the curve in how aware you are of how dying colors everything. I appreciate your sensitivity so much to how this all affects your wife as you go through it. You're awesome.

  4. First of all, don't you worry about responding to our comments, Andrew. I've pulled back on that myself for much, much lesser reasons. We know you are struggling to make it through each day. Pour your energies into writing and blessing us as you have so faithfully done so far. And I hope that you give yourself a little grace on this. Perhaps it was much harsher sounding to Barbara or came from your lips in a much more hateful way that it is expressed here, but I can only see the humanity of it all. It is so very hard to go through what BOTH of you are going through and it's understandable that communications should falter at times. Of course, I also know that you are in a place with great perspective and fully understand the brevity of your interactions, Andrew. So I don't want to make light of what is so very important to you and Barbara. I just hope that you both can extend grace to each other and to yourselves. Thanks too for being so open and vulnerable. It's always humbling to visit your place and hear your words. Praying for you and Barbara, my friend!

  5. As always, Andrew...you insight! My husband is not nearly as active as I am; thought he does go with me to family gatherings and when I am doing shopping or other errands. He just wants to "get out of the house"...but when I'm planning a "by myself" event...he tries to have negative comments to make me feel bad for doing it...at this point, I do NOT feel bad for doing "my own thing" because I feel at some point I won't be able to do them!

    I love The Voice and that's one of the shows we watch; I guess because I LOVE music...and love watching the up-and-coming talent. I can fully understand your feeling of listening to such songs; and that you wanted her to know how you felt hearing them...she loves you, Andrew...she does! And, she understands how you feel, I am sure! It is hard for both of you; there is so much that you may (or may not) keep inside because sharing is hard...praying for both of you that you can share all you can while you can...

  6. I pray for both of you every day. I hope when you're in Heaven and she's not, Barbara will find encouragement from reading all your posts again.

  7. I haven't written much on my blog lately, so I decided to stop by yours ... for inspiration and to see how you're doing. Your comments always enlightened me in ways I didn't expect, just like this post. I appreciate your insight about trying to drag someone into your dark place. The ironic thing is, sometimes I allow others to do this, then point a finger at them because I'm there. My blame darkens the corner even more. I could learn a lot from your wife about living in the light, but only because you were willing to share it here. Thank you, Andrew!