Ten years ago this month, my world as I knew it ended.
My husband of 19 years, the father of my two sons, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Over the course of seven months, Bill went from beating me silly on the tennis court to needing my help to go to the bathroom and bathe.
It was the best seven months of my life.
Maybe I don’t actually mean that. But it was certainly the time when I felt most alive.
During those seven months, I came to understand that whatever else I did in my life, nothing would matter more than this. Even though I really didn’t know how this would end.
For me, there were no bad days. I discovered that the petty day-in, day-out grievances of an irksome co-worker, a child with the sniffles or a flat tire pale in comparison to the beauty of spontaneous laughter, the night sky, the smells of a bakery. Some days were more difficult than others, but there were moments of joy, laughter, tenderness in every day — if I was willing to look hard enough.
Caregiving has gotten a bad name in this country. Being a caregiver to someone you love can be transcendent, a gift. And yet for too many it feels like punishment. There are lots of good reasons for this. Among the nation’s more than 34 million unpaid caregivers, many are aging, and ill spouses are caring for equally aged and sicker mates. There often is a lack of infrastructure to make sure that essentials such as transportation to doctor’s visits and medical tests are provided. For some, caregiving lasts for years rather than months, and respite services that would allow for a little time off from the relentless nature of the challenge aren’t always in place.
Read more on The Washington Post.