With no training or preparation, I became a nurse to my once strong and very capable husband. I removed chemo infusion pumps from his chest and cleaned up the trash can when he’d been sick. I helped him type text messages because he couldn’t hold the phone steady and I became the primary driver because he was no longer allowed to drive. I helped brush his teeth, bathe him, shave him, and feed him. I gave him medicines around the clock. I rubbed his feet with lotion because his heels hurt from lying in bed so much. I helped the man who used to run an easy 6 minute mile, get up and walk across the room to go to the bathroom. I helped the man who used to lift weights at the gym at least twice weekly feed himself when he was too weak to lift a spoon/fork.
And I watched as this was humiliating and humbling for him. I hurt for him as he hurt physically but I also ached for him as I knew he felt like less of a man and a nuisance. Which of course he was neither. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. And it hurt in ways words can not describe.
These were the kind of things we expected years from now, when we were both much older. Before cancer, we would joke about taking care of each other when we got old. We’d say things like, “will you love me enough to change my diapers when I’m old?” and then laugh as we’d say “nope!” That was way back when it was easy to laugh about such things because it seemed so far away.
But I did all these things and so much more because I loved him with a love that is so deep and so unique that it never it allowed me to question whether I would or would not. I knew had the situation been reversed he would have done all of that for me as well.
As hard as it was to have me help him with such things, there was no one else he would have wanted to do it. When he was in the Hospice Inpatient Facility, he even told the nurses on multiple occasions when they would try to feed him or give him medicine, “My wife will do it.” They would still try but he’d become insistent that I do it for him and so they would hand it over to me to take care of. What love! What trust!
The healthy years were a gift beyond measure. I was loved wholeheartedly by an incredible man and for that I am so thankful. Those years were not without their own struggles but they were a gift. And in the end there were gifts as well such as unconditional love and trust and the privilege of faithfully living out our vows.
…..for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health….