I want to share a posting by an 80-year-old physician-turned patient. Larry Zaroff is an MD-PhD cardiac surgeon who in his later years successfully scaled the peak of Chulu West (a 22,000 foot ascent) near the Nepal-Tibet border.
A brief excerpt:
Illness is sticky, its tentacles reaching out to capture anyone who ventures close to the sick. With effort, time and distance, the glue can be dissolved: friends feel sad, but can leave; relatives and children can lead their own lives. But wives are bound--they are half of a clamshell that closes with serious illness. This shut-in state is what I call pre-widowhood. That I would cause my wife to suffer this felt intolerable to me.
At times I've wondered aloud to my wife, "Wouldn't you and I both be better off if I were gone?" Death imposes an ending, a limit to the suffering. Though her loss would be painful, a wife can grieve and then get on with her life. She has time for other possibilities.
"No, no and no," argues my wife of fifty-six years--"not as long as a portion of your brain is intact."
However unfair the burden has been on my wife, I have great cause to be thankful for her willingness to care for me. In the depths of my debility, when I felt trapped in despair and helplessness, it was largely her efforts that helped me to continue to hold on to life and hope.
Next: Lessons Learned