Cheryl did yeoman’s work taking care of me and cleaning up after me. Many of you may figure that that’s no big deal, since she’s a nurse, but there are a few other things to consider. The first is that she had called in sick herself, with a head cold, when I suddenly came down with this thing, and she ended up taking care of me rather than me taking care of her. The other is that it brought back to mind an incident that happened in church many years ago.
Our pastor was telling the story of the president of a Christian college whose wife had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. When he got the diagnosis, he decided to resign immediately, and spend the rest of his time taking care of the woman he loved full-time. His associates thought he was making a terrible mistake. Surely he could hire someone to take care of his wife while he continued to run the college. Surely he could put her in a nursing home. But he was adamant – he had made a commitment when they got married, and he was sticking to it.
As I listened from the bass section of the choir, I thought about the many patients Cheryl had to deal with at the hospital, and that she “only” has to deal with them for eight hours before she gets to come home to rest, and I decided that there was no way I wanted her trying to do that 24/7 for me. So I tore off a part of my church bulletin, and sent a note up to her in the alto section that said, “You will not do this.”
At the same time my note was going forward, she was sending one back to me. Hers said, “Beautiful story – but just find me a nice nursing home.”She’s right. It was a beautiful story, but it didn’t begin to even deal with reality. It didn’t deal with the reality that she knew as a nurse and that I knew as the husband of one; and neither one of us wanted the other to feel that they had to try to do by themselves what there are entire staffs available to do…to do well, and to do while getting a little time off from before you have to face it again.
For three days I lay in bed, watching as Cheryl cleaned up after me, as she brought me what little food and drink I felt like dealing with at a time, taking care of all of the household chores that I usually attend to, and I was reminded of that day in church when we both passed notes to each other. And my resolve became stronger, so if you didn’t get it when it came around the first few times, I’m telling you once again now:
When I become old and infirm, unable to take care of myself, leaking from every bodily orifice, and unable to recognize anyone, Cheryl is to put me into a nursing home. I love her too much to want her to try to put in 36-hour days taking care of me.
And if any of you try to guilt her into doing it herself, I will briefly find the strength to rise up out of my bed and smack you upside the head with my IV pole.