A Way to Be Close

When my wife Bernie
was undergoing regular chemotherapy,
there was one repeating experience
I did not like.
I would sit beside her
in the oncologist’s office
while the nurse slowly injected
those toxic, life-saving chemicals.
Then I would help her to the car and we would head quickly home.
I drove faster than normal because we knew
her nausea would begin within the hour.
At the end of that trip across town lay what I disliked.
Bernie would climb into bed
and there she would lie very still
for the better part of two or three days.
She wouldn’t want to talk,
nor would she want to be touched or massaged,
nor would she even want me in the same room with her,
except briefly.
She wanted to be left alone.
She needed to be left alone.
So as her caregiver that’s what I needed to do,
even though it felt terribly lonely,
even though I experienced such helplessness
as I paused there in the doorway periodically,
listening, watching, caring deeply.
I came to realize that letting her alone at those times
was the most loving action I could take.
Letting her lie, and sometimes moan, by herself
was one way I could offer my love.
It was a hard lesson for me,
but a very important lesson.
It is a lesson that all of us who call ourselves caregivers
will do well to take in,
much as we wish we didn’t have to.

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