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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 168 - Orlando, Death, and Caregiving

In the world in which I once moved, an incident like Orlando would not have been more than notable, raising some eyebrows. "Fifty? Bad show, that. Pity. Let's go sort the buggers, shall we?"

San Bernardino? Part of the daily grind. Fourteen was the low side of the usual wastage.

And that, frankly, is a pretty horrible way to look at tragedy. It's a hardening that cracks the soul, allowing humanity to leak away.

Including humanity toward oneself. I make jokes about things, where I really shouldn't; jokes about not being able to breathe, jokes about puking blood, jokes about world-class incontinence.

"Could be worse, I could have acne."

And Barbara hates that. She wants to be sympathetic, but who wants to extend feelings toward a jerk who can't even sympathize with himself?

And yet...it makes my life easier. If I took the time to really think about how crappy this all is, and how bad the outlook is getting, I'd probably be a quivering mass of tears, and sure as heck I would not be writing this.

And I think it's helped me survive. Yesterday I did stop breathing again, and it was terrifying in the moment. I was lying on my back, it was like drowning, and all I could do was to beat my hands on the floor.

The service dogs came running. I was able to grab Sylvia's collar, and she pulled me upright while Ladron pushed from the back. I could breathe again, painfully.

And I joked about it when Barbara came home./About how the girls must have rolled their eyes and said, "What, again?"

Makes me smile to think about it. But makes Barbara sick to her stomach.

I am taking something away from her. I am robbing her of the role of comforter, the role she should by rights have as a loving wife and a diligent caregiver.

"Pity. Let's go sort the buggers, shall we?" Would you want to live with that?

And so, a question...how does one reconcile one's own hardness of spirit, as a patient, with the need to allow the caregiving spouse to express sympathy?

If you can, please do leave a comment. I am trying to answer all, and I am failing, but please know this - I read and treasure each one.

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  1. No words to speak to that experience other than, that's too bad.
    The last two days I've spent time with my dear auntie (91) who most likely doesn't have many more days in the earthly realm. As I sing, read, or pray with her, I am bringing comfort. She relaxes and whispers, "Thank you." My mind trails back to the vital role she has played in my life. I had to cancel a trip to be with my grandchildren so I could be here for her and my cousin. Tonight we were in the ER together. There are concerns. Let me say, empathizing is part of loving. War and death is its own tragedy and leaves its own mark on the soul.No answers to your questions, because I prefer to not comment...even though I do have an opinion (I always do!) but you might not like it in this case. So I'll refrain.
    Humor does help, and we must laugh or we'd lose the will to face the hard thing. The strain on the two of you has got to be great.
    Bless you. Still praying

  2. Glad those doggies were at hand and you're still here. And sorry it was such a horrible experience - again!
    We all do the 'I'm fine' 'could be worse' game... Guess we persist in it because 1) pride or panic won't admit the reality to ourselves 2) we're not confident that our need will be reliably meet by the person we tell, be it self, God or a spouse 3) we actually do love the other and don't want to 'make'them dig deeper to support us.
    So do we really believe it's more blessed to give than receive, and make space for others to step into that blessing?
    Do we really believe God can welcome our cries and honest angry prayers?
    Can we admit how awful it is to ourselves, without falling to pieces and never getting a grip again?
    It seems to me falling honestly into God's arms is the one step that allows us to open up to others... He has the infinite capacity that neither we nor our spouse have and facing terrifying situations without him is just too overwhelming.
    Praying for you guys today to sense 'underneath are the Everlasting Arms'.

  3. An excellent question, Andrew, and one to ponder well.

    My father lived a long dragged out death in grim circumstances. I remember in February of his final year asking God, "why is he still alive?"

    No answer, of course.

    But by the time he died in July, I came to see that merely staying alive that long was his final father gift--he could not speak, eat or interact, but living those extra months enabled my brother to finally make peace with him.

    When Dad died, we could mourn cleanly.

    You're right to wonder how you can make this easier for Barbara. Let her in perhaps, and give her the gift of loving you?

    That's it for advice from me.

    Though, perhaps it's only fair to note one friend was always very jealous of the affection her husband bestowed on the dog but not on her.

  4. Glad the doggies were there to set you aright, even if it was a painful experience. You ask a good question, Andrew. I'm not sure it is one that someone apart from your situation can answer. But here is what I do know: You recognize Barbara's need, and you're not blind to your own mindset. You care enough to ask the question, you'll figure out how to meet her need while staying true to yourself. That's my two sense. Continuing in prayer for you both. God bless you.

  5. Yes, Andrew, once again glad your furry friends were there with you...how to respond to the rest, I don't really know. I find myself getting more and more...how should I put it...hardened a little with all the violence...shootings in my own town; shootings in the "happiest place on earth"; toddlers and alligators; and children drowning and...OK, I promise to stop! I just become hardened from it all and can't think straight about and shed very few tears.

    Not a very good way to react to all this "stuff"; and I can't say that I "know how you feel" because I don't. And, truly, I don't know how Barb feels either...not that type of caregiving here.

    But, what I can do is to send hugs and prayers and rejoice that you ARE still here. And, feel that there must be a reason why?! But, the only one who could answer that, we may not ever "hear" that answer...

    Blessings, Andrew! Hope this isn't too "down" of a comment...that is how I've felt the past few days...

  6. I'm not qualified to answer this one either, Andrew. I just pray that LOVE will be what covers us all with our personality quirks and ways. Obviously Barbara loves you and you love her; may that be enough! Blessings to you both, friend.

  7. I have no idea how to answer your question, but I think asking it will help others who struggle with the varying needs of self and spouse.

  8. Easy....generous grace. Let her cope how she needs and let him cope how he needs. He can joke, she can cry, and both can embrace and love the other.

    Sometimes I catch myself joking. Sometimes the tears catch up to him. (Not terminal, but we have gone through some toughies).

    Sometimes we have so much going on personally that we simply cannot invest in other tragedies not directly related to us. That doesn't mean we don't care. We do, but cannot deposit any emotional money into that account.