To Have and To Hold, In Sickness and In Health

Marriage, commitment, caring for one anotherMy wife, Marie, and I have had many wonderful times together.  We’ve taken trips and gone to concerts and watched movies and just sat on the sofa holding hands.  We work in the yard and on the house together.  We truly enjoy one another’s company, so we don’t necessarily have to have “entertainment” to be happy together.  This is what we’ve always considered “to have and to hold” to mean.  And we’ve enjoyed many happy, healthy years.

Marie recently went through a life-threatening trauma.  She’d been sick all day, in the evening she asked me to take her to the hospital Emergency Room.  Upon arrival they took some basic information – mostly about how they were going to get paid – and sent her to the triage room.  Above the nurse’s desk here is a big sign reading, “Patients are NOT seen in the order of arrival.  Patients are seen in the order of severity of their injury or illness.”  The triage nurse took Marie’s vitals and gave her a very brief once-over then said, “OK, let’s go.” and rushed her right into a bed in the ER.

For the next 6 hours a doctor, a physician’s assistant and an R.N. worked steadily at getting her stabilized.  When they succeeded and were transferring her to the Critical Care Unit, the doctor talked to us about what had happened and what would be ahead.  He said that had she not come in, had she decided to “tough it out”, she probably would not have lived through the night.

She is home now, but she is home only because while she worked her way down the scale of concern in the hospital, I was there to help.  Two of her nurses thanked me for being their eyes and ears and helping with the more mundane tasks like getting her to the bathroom and fetching ice and soda as needed.

When Marie started feeling better she convinced the doctor that she would be better off at home than in the hospital.  And he agreed, since she has a caregiver who can be trusted and can be with her 24/7 to look after her.  If I’d had a regular job to go to, she’d still be in the hospital.  As of this writing, she is still very sick and too weak to look after herself.

Last night after I got her into bed and crawled in beside her, she took my hand and thanked me for being so attentive and taking such good care of her.  Not all husbands would.  I thought about that as I drifted off to sleep.

When We Don’t Care

I knew a fellow once who was married to a woman who liked to “tease” him with threats of trading him in for a cabana boy.  Their relationship was strained.  Eventually he developed clinical depression and had to be hospitalized.  After the initial phase of treatment his therapist called this fellow’s wife and asked her to come in and participate in her husband’s recovery therapy.  She told the therapist in no uncertain terms that she was not a part of his problem and had no intention of being involved in his treatment.  “Just send him home when he’s done.”  The therapist told this fellow that in all his years of practicing psychology he had never recommended a divorce as part of the treatment – this case would be the first.

This is absolutely the worst case of lack-of-concern I’ve ever known, but I have known other couples who were not “there” for each other when the time came.  I feel this is a basic part of a marriage.  And it never occurred to me that I’d dump Marie in a hospital or convalescent center if I am able to do what needs to be done.  She is my wife, my soul-mate, I love her dearly and cannot imagine my life without her.  I’ve enjoyed the healthy times, why would I refuse to care for her when she needs me most?  She will get better, this is short term.  But even if not, I’d be here for her.

I do know people who are in the same situation and of the same opinion… some of them have been for many years.  I like to think that this is the “normal” response from most human beings.  But lately I’ve run into too many cases where this was not the case to believe it to be as common as it once was.

Just one of many is an elderly couple who lived down the road from us.  She developed Alzheimer’s, he was getting pretty shaky in the health department himself and was worried that if anything happened to him there would be no one to care for her.  So they sold their home and moved to a far-away state where they have children.  But it took only a very short time to discover that when he died or became too ill, it would be just days before she was in a nursing home.  None of their family was willing to care for her.  They’ve moved back here now and are building a new house next door to their old one.  They said “At least here we have friends who care about us.”

It breaks my heart to think that our society has become so convenience-centered that husband/wife/children will not take care of one another when needed.  What is your experience; do most of your friends and family care enough to care for, or do most think “that’s why we have convalescent centers”?

8 thoughts on “To Have and To Hold, In Sickness and In Health”

  1. What a beautiful post, Allan–and sad. I’m so sorry about your wife’s illness, and I’m glad she’ll be better soon. You’re right–the kind of commitment you two have to each other has become all too rare. This age of individualism has advantages, is perhaps a natural swing of the pendulum, but it’s a shame we’re forgetting about the basics of human interaction.

  2. Allan, I’m very sorry to hear of your wife’s illness. Here’s hoping she recovers fully and soon. My wife has a long-term illness that needs to be managed because a cure is not in the cards, so I’ve lived some of what you describe. I’m happy to report that every similar case i’ve bumped into has involved a caring spouse. In a couple of cases care became their full-time job, and then after the illness became fatal the spouse had to mourn not only the loss of their life’s partner, but also the loss of their most recent full-time vocation.

    Thanks for sharing your touching thoughts.
    Best wishes,

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience Andrew. I too know a couple of people who went full-time as caregivers. One, after the death, got her CNA and became a home health care professional. She found her calling through that misfortune.

  3. What a beautiful love you and Marie share Allan. This really did touch me.We will be holding her up in prayer. As you know from one of our very first posts. We had 3 family members die within three months of eachother. My father, grandfather and uncle. Mesothelioma, having been exposed to asbestos in the family business. I can’t tell you how hard this was on my family. One death is unbearable. 3 was torturous. It would’ve been easy to run…after my father died. But me, my mother and my husband cared for my grandfather and uncle right to the end. Knowing they wanted to be home when they died not in a hospital. I will say that without hospice…we wouldn’t have survived. But we did what family should. We gave them their last request, to die at home.And loved them until the end. Marie is lucky to have you! And I’m sure your lucky to have her.

    1. Yes, Inion, I count myself as being truly blessed for having Marie in my life.

      Hospice programs can and do help a great deal, but having all three become terminally ill like that must have been very hard. My heart does out to you.

    1. Thank you Richard. Marie is doing much better now and I attribute that mostly to the many folks who were praying for her.

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