Thanks for posting your story Gary. I’m wary of writing about my situation as it seems self serving, and more personal than the usual post here, Your post reassures me that this might be appropriate:
I’m caring for my partner of 25 years who’s in the severe stage of Alzheimer’s. This experience has made me aware of how poorly we address the end of life. It is as much a passage as a birth, but it is an almost hidden occurrence in our society. Too often, when a member of a family, or community is failing, the care giving either falls on the shoulders of a single individual, or is farmed out, at great expense, to an impersonal institution. The exception to this situation seems to occur among members of strong theistic religious communities.
When Esther was diagnosed I decided I would take care of her for as long as I could have a positive effect on her quality of life, or until I was physically or mentally unable to care for her. So far, it’s been the hardest, most exhausting, thing I’ve ever done. But, and I want to emphasize this, it has not been tragic, sordid, or demeaning. It has been an intense experience, opening my eyes to types of beauty I never noticed before and raising all sorts of questions about the value and quality of existence, empathy, the choice of subordinating your own desires to serve another, what is a “good life”, and on and on. I don’t know as I’ve come up with any answers, but I’m pretty sure I’m a hell of a lot more of a human. (He says modestly).
When we don’t commit to each other I think we may be missing a huge part of what it means to be a human being. As Humanists I think most of us would say that this conscious experience, whatever it is, is likely to be all that there is, and we damn well ought to pay attention and experience as much of it as we can. Birth, life, death, love, sorrow, joy, pain, service and being served. I think when we work together it can expand and enhance the experience.
I’m not finding fault in people who can’t make this sort of commitment, it’s almost impossible for people to step away from the rat race. Most people can’t just take the time off from a career or precarious financial situation, I’m lucky, we’ve got a little money and a supportive community and I can choose to take some time for this. And I love Esther very much.