Essays

Confessions of a Caregiver

Out of the blue, my fit, healthy spouse of 20 years (my second spouse, at age 75) was diagnosed with the most lethal type of lymphoma. Overnight, we were thrust into entirely different roles.

I had been “enabled” by my husband Ray to pretty much write and paint fulltime, while he joyously commandeered our household — food, shopping, dealing with everything from a leaky sink to a leaky roof. …

On Death: You’d Likely Rather Not Read This

Most people at this moment are safe and healthy. But the pandemic is with us all, front and center. One shudders at reading or hearing of the family unable to be with their mortally-ill relative in the ICU…to share fervent expressions of love…at the least to say farewell. In our day and age, it’s almost unfathomable that tens of thousands of Americans have been thrust into this scene of utter despair.

But for the still-standing-strong among us, we have been confronted “prematurely” with the things we most choose to avoid: death and dying. We all know too well that life ends. We witness it almost as a naturally-occurring event when the departed is a grandparent who has lived a long and full life. As often there is the person who has been long failing, whose passing is a “blessing.” Such a death is usually a relief for the loving, dedicated caregivers. There are the all-too-frequent victims of sudden accidents. It prompts shock in us, bereavement for the victims’ kinfolk, particularly if they are friends. …

The Surviving Spouse: Now What?

There is nothing new about the depth of grief for a person who loses their beloved. Death is a fact of life. It doesn’t matter if the soul passing is an elder, someone middle-aged, or young. But because of the present pandemic, families and communities are suddenly encountering this heartbreaking situation with disturbing frequency.

Many things can round out the sharp edges of such loss. Families are central, of course. …

Death with Dignity: Not for Everyone

Yet another consequence of the pandemic is that the subjects of death and dying are newly prominent in the national conversation. Even though the elderly are disproportionately affected, people of all ages — especially middle-aged caregivers — are confronting mortality perhaps as never before. Apart from surviving COVID-19, many are doubly-conscious of physical challenges looming otherwise.

Soon after we connected twenty years ago, my recently-deceased husband Ray said: “You know, Richard, we could become old men together. One of us will likely go first. I hope it’s me, to skip what must be unendurable grief.”

This faded as an issue, but another one did not. Often observing poor souls stooping over canes or hobbling on walkers or managing in wheelchairs, Ray would say: “I hope one thing is clear about me. If it should ever come to pass that the quality of my life, and therefore ours even more so, is reduced to such a point, I would not want to go on. I hope if you still love me that you will pull the plug.” …