Is there much more of a frustrating time in life than when you have to stand by and watch a child or spouse going through a horrible illness? I can’t think of one.
The sick person is sick. The person(s) watching over you, taking care of you, loving you can only try to make you comfortable. Feeling a feverish brow, brushing a tendril of hair off of their forehead, helping to give nourishment to the body and their soul. They need both. The amazing thing is; we all need this type of nourishment whether or not we are sick.
What do any of us get for loving someone so deeply you find yourself breathing in sync with them? Sometimes you get beautiful moments to hold onto and cherish forever. At other times you get ugly things, when the person is lashing out at you. This is a form of love easily misunderstood by those who are on the receiving end. Though you pledge to love someone in sickness and health, the sickness part is never easy, and often you will be the recipient of instant, anger-fueled resentment when things do not seem to be going the way they want. And who among us hasn’t had this happen? I know I have those feelings when things seem out of control, especially lately.
When a loved one gets angry with you during an illness, we need to understand this is done from love. Lack of control, frustration, anger at being ill and not being able to do anything except lay there is debilitating to one’s psyche. It goes against our survival instinct. This is not the time for us, the caretakers to be hurt by what is said, or done, but it is a call for a greater understanding of what it is they are really saying; ”I love you enough to trust these emotions with you.” Wow. They are taking their bad, out of control feelings and throwing them out to you, the ones they love.
Granted this may take you wholly by surprise, but you must remain calm and reassuring. Provoking an argument will serve neither of you...and you never know if this could be the last thing remembered and played over and over in your head (or theirs) like a never ending loop. Being able to graciously accept the anger they express to you is a gift.
The above was written on August 17th, 2009, eleven days before my husband died.
To be perfectly honest, just a month ago yesterday since his death, I have no recollection what spurred me to write this on that particular Monday night, five days into our ordeal. I suppose it is because in the scheme of things to remember, what I was experiencing with him (on some level) somehow seemed an important enough idea to jot down notes. I only had an empty house to come home to.
I don’t want to keep rehashing the end of my husband’s life, our lives together, but it seems to me some of the lessons I learned are important things to share with the people I care about. This happens to be you if you are reading this.
As I run across notes I am going to share them, but I am also beginning a new chapter of my life, an exciting and scary one. I hope you’ll join me on the journey to the future, just like you have done with my past. I promise to throw you an old story once and awhile, but for now I am so busy living I have little time to look over my shoulder.
Oh, and now you can call me Madame President. Hi-ho-hi-ho...it's off to work I go. Really.