No matter what adversities we encounter, we can always grow spiritually. My spouse Julie was diagnosed at age 57 with Alzheimer’s. She has lived in memory care for the past 7 years. She is now in hospice. This is one of six blogs about what Julie needed from me as her caregiver and how her needs shaped my spiritual growth.
Part Two: Julie needed me to learn and grow as we went
We had the opportunity to go to Florida. The trip was filled with joy. We went to the beach. We went to see the home where she grew up. But, I knew that if I left her alone that she would have no idea where she was or how to find her way back home.
When we went to Disney World, she went into the women’s restroom. She came out without her purse. We went back together to look for it and couldn’t find it. We found it later at the park entrance. The joy of this trip was constantly accompanied by sorrow at seeing the woman that I loved decline. Joy and sorrow became companions.
Gratitude for small things became an important practice. Moments when unsolicited, someone chose to help us – moments of laughter – moments of intimate conversation, a good meal, or hearing music from our past. Hope often came from knowing I could count on these things, when I could not count on Julie getting better.
I also learned to embrace the “positive” and the “negative” – to trust that it all belonged. Sometimes that has been hard. These days, Julie seldom opens her eyes and barely responds to my presence. I am no longer sure she knows me. I hold her hand as I imagine her doing the internal work of moving on, assuming that my presence is contributing.
Ambiguity is always present. Julie is still the same person in some ways, but in many ways she is no longer here. She is still my wife, and yet, she is no longer my marriage partner. Embracing “both/and” is critical.