Monday, January 7, 2008

Crumbling Body, Shining Spirit

My Hubby's body is deteriorating.
I can see it in the way he struggles to breathe.
I can see it in his emaciated muscles.
I can see it in moments of confusion.
I can see it in his need for more sleep.
And there are other bodily functions, just beginning their descent into shutting down.

And yet - as I look deeply into his gentle brown eyes, I can see his Spirit shining through. His eyes sparkle at a shared joke, a memory, the voice of his grandson over the phone.
How can that be?

While Christmas shopping, I ran into an old friend. Someone I hadn't seen in years.
"How are you?" she enquired.
"Fine." I answered "how about you?"
"Oh, I've got cancer." I nearly jumped out of my skin.
"Yes", she continued, "it started in my breast and now it's in my bones and lungs".

"But you look fine!" I blurted out before I could think. Is this the right response? Does somebody in this situation want to look fine? Or do they want you to say "yeah, you look tired" or something similarly vague, as a way of admitting that things are not quite right.

I looked into her eyes. I scanned her body, trying to get a feeling for her energy. She looked like any normal middle-aged woman out shopping. Not someone who had metastatic cancer.

How can that be? How can someone be so sick and yet look normal. Here she was dressed comfortably in jeans and sweater, hair done, a touch of make-up, carrying a shopping bag in each hand. She had the energy to go Christmas shopping!!

As the days pass, I wonder "will this be the day?"
"No", I answer myself "Hubby is still doing his rehab exercises. He is still able to eat normally. He still has interest in life - watches sports on T.V. and reads books. He talks to his sons over the phone. He clings to his daily routine, like the survivor of a ship-wreck who clings to a piece of wood. And he still has a Shining Spirit.

One day this Spirit will go out. But for now, I am marveling on the strength behind this "will to live" - this strong Shining Spirit.


JOY said...

Your love shines thru because you can still see his spirit shining thru in his eyes. That's the part of each and every one of us that lives on long after our bodies have said "no more".My hubby was never very tall but he did hard manual labour all his life with bodywork & painting & he was very physically strong. Now he can barely lift a little bag of garbage.Watching me clear out the house & lift boxes and rip around like a busy bee really bugs him. He really wishes he could help & he feels bad that he can't do too much. My son came over today for 4 hrs, and helped me clean the basement & the shed. He's such a blessing. I don't know what I'd do without him right now!Hubby sounds so 'normal' just talking to him on the phone but to see him you wouldn't hardly think it was the same guy. He's so skinny & he eats pretty good. I guess all his nutrients are going to his vital organs just to survive.

Anonymous said...

Your first set of comments hit home and I've been holding back tears for a long time. Now I'll have to blink them back again. My husband is so ashamed at what's he become and a burden on me, as he says. "don't want any one seeing me this way" when he goes into distress. I keep telling him it's not big deal; don't worry, that's what I'm here for. He has so crumbled---in distress, he may even lose all bodily functions and then I have to clean him up---how embarrassing for him. But I'd rather do that than have Hospice nurse do it. They have been wonderful and my next lesson is to learn how to give him his meds while in distress and he can't swallow. Yippee!!! Never can teach an old dog new tricks!! Joel & I are both in our 50's. We have gone thru all the financial things; turned some things over to just my name already---you feel you may be prepared--but know when the day comes, it'll be hard. Every time he goes into distress, I ask myself, is this the day?

Wendy said...

Hi Joy,
I hadn't really thought about it that way. I guess I thought the Spirit would give up and then the body follow.
It's so hard watching them deteriorate. And as you said "Hubby sounds so normal talking on the phone." Then, they stand up and begin walking across the floor - that's when the "normal" stops and you can clearly see the illness. It sucks!!!
I know how hard it is for your Hubby to watch you buzzing around. My hubby also gets upset when I do heavy work that he used to do.
Good luck with your cleaning up and moving. Thanks for posting.

Wendy said...

Dear Anonymous,
I hear you and I truly feel your pain. I have been crying for years and sometimes feel that's all I do anymore.
My hubby also does not want anyone to see him in his state of illness. And I constantly remind him that we are together "for better or worse".
I'm with you on cleaning him up, rather than Hospice. Would much rather have him at home. And I know he would rather be at home too.
This is truly a "giving" period in our lives.
I hope you have somebody to talk to. Grief needs to be expressed and shared. I don't think I would have survived this long without my COPD support group. And this blog helps me sort things out too.
God Bless you and best of luck in giving him his meds. I also have been practicing changing oxygen bottles so that I won't panic if Hubby needs them in a hurry (power goes off).
I guess the one good thing about this kind of illness is that we can be somewhat prepared - but when the time comes, it will be a shock nonetheless.
Stay in touch