I wake in the morning to the stirrings of my wife who, before the light comes into my room to make sure I’m covered and warm before waking me gently to take my morning medications. She silently slips out leaving me to fall back asleep. When I later wake on my own she seems to know and greets me with a smile and caress, standing ready to fill my needs. I ask for milk to steady my stomach and consider the bland fare my digestive system will tolerate, thanks to the cancer ravaging my body. My fortunate remission is over and the cancers appetite has turned voracious as it grows pain inflicting tumors throughout my body trunk. With the milk she gives me a booster morphine pill. I am now needing 120mg to hold the pain at bay. It doesn’t make it go away, just keep it tolerable. She is frustrated that she cannot help more. It tears at her. I try to hide my pain but I can’t, my wimpering gives me away. Nor can I stop the tears I shed as I watch the clock tick towards the time I can take more pain meds.
My wife lost her mother two years ago, her father a year ago and her daughter turned her out of her life, taking my wife’s grandkids with her. Her mom’s sister had a nervous breakdown and, of course, she’s watching her husband perish in a grotesque way. Yet this woman has a ready smile and endless empathy. What a joy she is to have in my life.
I feel a deep guilt about what my death will do to this beautiful angel. I am, she says, her bright light, her anchor and best friend, and I am about to take that from her after she has suffered so much loss already. I have provided for her at my loss, she will have a home and a car and van, all late model. She will have money from me and VA survivor benefits for spouses. I’ve paid the Neptune Society to pay the cost of my cremation and other end of life fees. I try to comfort her about the future, she snarls and says she would throw it all away if she could have me instead.
I hear her in her room quietly singing “Someone to Watch Over Me” like a lullaby, her voice hitching as she fights back the tears. Someone so kind, loving and giving doesn’t deserve this. It’s emotional torture is what it is. I asked the VA if they had any programs to help spouses and was pointed to CHAMPSVA, medical coverage similar to medicare. My wife has been on it for a few years and it saved us a fair amount of money. They had a program where once a week someone would come to the house for four hours, letting my wife take a break. She tried it a couple of times and she was so stressed something would happen while she was gone that she was more at peace staying with me. Isn’t she great?
We do have moments where we will hold hands and weep together. We would hug and hold each other but my pain sensitive body disallows such things.
she fetches things for me all through the day, getting angry when I call myself a taskmaster. She enjoys it, even helping organizing my hobby projects. Right now I’m trying to design a fixed wing camera platform with long hang time over target. Without my wife I’d be a toadstool.
But it’s her continual buoyancy that makes my day to day life livable. She’s the brightest star in the universe.