For Better, For Worse

I’d be willing to bet that when the original wedding vows were written, they weren’t thinking about how bad “worse” can get.

Like putting your finger in a place where no finger should ever have to go in order to relieve your husband of a lower-intestinal obstruction. Like collecting his urine in a jug for 24 hours and transporting it to the hospital lab. Like watching his upper chest shrink to the point where you can see his ribs protruding.

This is the stuff no one ever tells you about during those marriage-prep classes they make couples take before their wedding. Not even your own mother will tell you what it means to take a man “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health”. Because nobody really knows just how far those words can reach until they’re faced with a situation like this one.

Thankfully, Will has had one of his better days today, even staying awake for most of the afternoon and evening. He doesn’t get out of the chair much anymore, although he is wearing a path between it and the bathroom, and he doesn’t talk much……but then, he never has. He’s always been a doer, not a talker. I feel bad for him that he can no longer do much of either one. But he seems content to look out of the window and watch nature go by, and to catch snippets of TV shows and nap while his sister and I wait on him.

It’s this last that worries me the most. For thirty-three years that man has practically fallen over himself taking care of me, whether or not I needed taking care of;  now he hands me his dirty food dishes and glasses in silence, as if I’ve been fetching and carrying for HIM all these years.

I don’t mind the chores one bit. What I do mind is what his giving them up symbolizes…..namely, that he’s lost interest in living. He hasn’t even worked on his models in several days, and that is even more telling. He makes little effort to converse; it costs him more energy than it’s worth. He eats, but takes no pleasure in it; he drinks, but only because I’m forcing him to in order to prevent dehydration and avoid invasive interventions such as the one I had to perform last night.

We just took him off hospice this morning since we’re proceeding with the surgical consult. Tonight, I’m seriously beginning to wonder if it was a wise move.

He looks terrible. His eyes are sunken in and his entire face is drawn. His neck is now pencil-slim, and his collarbones are sticking out. His hair, which had only streaks of silver in it before, is now over half gray. His belt is on its very first notch, yet his smallest pair of jeans is sliding down. And his arms and legs are thinner than I’ve ever seen them before.

As a nurse, I’ve seen how scrawny people can get before they fade away completely; as a wife, I’m horrified by the changes in him. This is not the husband I’ve known and loved for over three decades; this is the ghost of a man who looks a little like him, but who is failing so fast that I barely recognize him. At this point, I’m not even sure if he’ll be able to make the long trip to the university hospital Monday morning—he’s so weak now that I worry he’ll collapse if he walks to the bathroom without my watching him. As if I were some sort of good-luck charm.

No, nobody tells a woman these things when she’s in love and her head is filled with orange blossoms and honeymoon dreams. Perhaps because she can’t see into the future and wouldn’t believe it could happen…..but also because the women who love her hope and pray it never will.


Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

4 thoughts on “For Better, For Worse

  1. Do you think he is going to be strong enough to withstand surgery? The surgeon may decide that he’s not 😦 this sounds unbelievably hard Marla… still praying for you all…


  2. Marla,my heart breaks for you. Sixteen months ago, I saw my hubby breathing very hard and he said to me, “Honey, I can’t breathe.” Those were the last words he said to me. I stood by for 4 long, horrible weeks as he too slipped away except his problem was an unknown auto-immune disease rendered his lungs useless. The air forced into his lungs kept him alive but also bloated his body beyond recognition. Hang in there Marla, cherish each moment and when the time is ready, Will will go on to be with Jesus in heaven. I had 44 wonderful years with Ray and you have had 33. That proves we took our vows seriously. I am praying for both of you.


  3. Sharon, what happened to your beloved hubby was AWFUL and I wonder sometimes how you ever survived it. You guys were too young for this stuff too; I know I sometimes look at older couples and am envious of them because we won’t get those years. Prayers for your continued healing. ❤


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