Self Caring

Caregiving: A Love Story

Last updated: Mar 01, 2011

Couple amoureux

I recently wrote here about how caregivers often hate their situation, the disease at hand, and sometimes even the sick person. And with good reason, according to readers' comments. Yet they keep on giving anyway -- sometimes in ways that surprise and amaze.

Take this story I recently heard, told in the words of a doctor....

How to dance in the rain

"It was a busy morning, about 8:30, when an elderly gentleman in his 80s arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00am. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound. On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.

"While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor's appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry.

"The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I inquired as to her health. He told me that she'd been there for several years and that she was a victim of Alzheimer's Disease.

"As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

"I was surprised, and asked him, 'And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?'

"He smiled as he patted my hand and said, 'She doesn't know me, but I still know who she is.'

"I had to hold back tears as he left. With goosebumps on my arm, I thought, That is the kind of love I want in my life.

"True love is neither physical, nor romantic. True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be, and will not be.

"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.

"Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."

Forgive me if you've already heard that one; it's been viral for at least three years now. I can't pinpoint its origins. But it's a pretty extraordinary example of caregiving love.

I wonder: Do you find the man inspiring, or worrisome? Is he motivated by selfless compassion and the true meaning of love, or is he a martyr who's perhaps endangering his own well being? How far should love push you? All the way? Part of the way? Where's the line, and how do you "make the best of everything" when that includes really bad things?

Whether you love caregiving right now or have come to hate it, what does this story say to you?