My wife suffered a series of health problems over the last 20 years of our 30 year marriage. She had brain surgery to clamp a bleeding vein, and later a small stroke, and heart problems. Her personality changed over the course of these illnesses, making her docile, forgetful, and dependent on me to make all the important decisions. She became childlike. I hid as much of her mental decline from her as I could and treated her like an intelligent, cherished and equal partner.
Then about ten years ago she had a near-fatal reaction to the statin drug Lipitor. This cholesterol-lowering drug caused severe neurological damage throughout her body. It ate away and dissolved massive amounts of muscle tissue which crippled and severely handicapped her physically. It also damaged her brain cells and made her even more mentally dependent on me.
She could walk a few steps, slowly, if she held onto me or a chair or something. My care-giving duties toward her increased steadily over the years as she lost mental and physical strength. And in exact proportion, so did my love and compassion for this precious woman increase, my beautiful wife Christel.
Her loss of independence was hard on her self-image. I had to constantly remind her that her value to me was exactly equal to my value to her, that we both were equal in necessity, worth, intelligence and everything else though we each brought different talents and abilities to our one loving relationship, our one marriage, as one soul using our two bodies.
She sometimes expressed regret that I had to do so much for her and she felt she wasn't giving enough in return. I tried and sometimes succeeded in getting her to understand that I never felt I was doing more than she, only different than she. I told her that her willingness to receive a gift or service from me was the only way that I could have the privilege of giving any gift or service to anybody. A giver "needs" a receiver in order to grow inwardly and spiritually through that giving. And she was giving me this chance to grow by allowing me to give to her. A receiver is always of equal value to the giver because the giving cannot take place without both parties sharing equally in the exchange. I gave her many hugs and I love you's and she gave them back to me over the years.
Finally, after 30 years of togetherness and 20 years of bathing her, helping her toilets, pushing her in wheelchairs, changing TV channels for her, changing the bed, washing the laundry, doing the daily cooking while always involving her by asking for her guidance as chef (she loved cooking) and after helping her outside to water her plants and watch the birds, showering her with love and seeking her advice on many issues, doing everything I could to bring a smile to her beautiful old face, after 20 years of increasingly intense care-giving that became a total focus for me, her heart beat its last beat in bed early in the morning of January 28, 2013.
She passed away sometime in the 30 minute span between the last two times I checked on her to see that she was sleeping peacefully. The grief I feel right now is indescribable. I had never imagined that my heart could break the way it is breaking now. I wish to God I knew how to get to her now to protect her. I hope that the strength and wisdom of her pure soul has emerged at last from her crippled body and is far more powerful than I.
Thanks for reading this brief summary of our love.