During the final months of my Dad’s battle with cancer, I tried to visit as often as possible. It was on one of those visits where I witnessed one of the most moving acts of selflessness and love I have ever seen.
I am proud to have an Uncle (who shall remain nameless; even though all my family will immediately know to whom I refer, I did not ask his permission to share this tale, and so anonymity will be enforced).
Growing up in West Tennessee in the ’70’s, my family didn’t take many trips, but we did visit family. There was lots of family to visit, and we had such great fun! We often visited an aunt and uncle and cousins in the next town North of ours, where we shared watermelon, cantaloupe, and heated games of Rook and Dominos.
My uncle and aunt, as many spouses do, had some difficult years early on, including a time of separation. But once reconciliation was reached, they were reunited and our frequent visits continued.
As time passed, and we grew up and moved away, my aunt began to lose the strength of her health, and has now required the constant care of a caregiver for quite some time. My uncle and hischildren (my cousins), all take turns with compassion and great patience to care for her many needs. Feeding, bathing, cleaning, this once vibrant lady has become a choice, not a chore. Loving hands care for her needs; a gentle voice maintains a single-sided conversation when she is not able to speak. Great pains and an even greater amount of time and compassion are required to meet her needs.
And my uncle is no spring chicken, himself. We had become concerned with his own health while lovingly caring for his bride. My dad had even spoken with him about placing her in a home where she could receive round-the-clock care. It seemed evident that it was time to relinquish that amount of care to the professionals at the nursing home, and to give my uncle some rest.
So, eventually, the decision was made to place my aunt in a nursing facility nearby. A visit was made, paperwork completed, and a room secured.
Yet the compassionate heart of my uncle for his bride made him reluctant to complete the deal. His head told him it was best; his heart said no.
While I was “working the road” with my dad one hot summer afternoon, my uncle drove up. He bounded out of his car, and with a grin as wide as the Tennessee border, told us he had made a decision about his wife.
Dad was glad that she was going where she could receive care she needed, and his brother could rest from all that work.
I will forever remember the words my uncle spoke that afternoon: “I have decided that she will stay at home. I called the nursing home and put the whole deal on hold. She doesn’t want to go, and realized that I don’t mind the time and work it takes to take care of her.
She is staying with me, and I can’t be more proud of my decision”.
Still today, my uncle cares for his bride. Daily, often hourly changes of clothing and bedding; one-sided conversations about this and that; and a stubborn commitment to “for better or worse”.
That situation still may, in the future, necessitate a move to the nursing home. But my uncle can always say that he has done all he could to care for his wife. He took no short cuts, no conveniences on his behalf.
And while my aunt may not know of his commitment on this side of eternity, I see it.
I see it.