Short View

English scholar John Bayley
wrote Elegy for Iris
about his last years
with his wife, the author
Dame Iris Murdoch.
When she developed Alzheimer’s,
he cared for her entirely on his own
for as long as he could.
He relates many episodes from their days together—
some humorous, some joyful,
some poignantly sad.
He leaves their story with a quotation
he had used midway in the book.
It’s by the nineteenth century clergyman and writer,
Rev. Sydney Smith, who once advised parishioners
who came to him feeling downhearted,
“Take short views of human life—
never further than dinner or tea.”

It’s clear that’s what John Bayley learned to do—
to take a short view as his wife’s caregiver:
a few hours at a time, one after another,
not much further ahead than dinner or tea.
That prescription does not work for all of life,
nor always for every caregiving situation.
But when caregiving becomes a long-range proposition,
when it consumes much of one’s daily energy,
then the reverend’s advice is worth considering.
Making our way through the coming few hours,
or the next half of a day,
is often enough for us to undertake
at any one time.
Not the whole month stretching before us.
Not all the seasons of the coming year.
Not what lies ahead unavoidably
at the very end of our time together.
Just these few morning hours
and whatever partial peace or quiet joy
or mutual understanding they may contain.
Just this afternoon interlude
and wherever an outdoor walk might take us,
and whatever experience of rest might refresh us,
this time of slipping into our accustomed routine
with its right amount of structure and comfort.
Just this evening that beckons,
carrying whatever it carries,
offering whatever it offers,
knowing we’ve done what we could,
aware we’ve received as well as given,
and now the rest is in the hands of Another.

Click on this image to enlarge it. Then right click to print it, send it to another, or use as your desktop wallpaper.

Please select this LINK for a printable version of this image.

3 Responses to “Short View”

  1. Kathy Hatfield Says:

    That was beautiful.

    Kathy – Caring for my 79 year old Dad with Alzheimer’s.

  2. onegirlfriday Says:

    thanks, son has pneumonia tonight, at home and yes, just looking at each hour as it comes tonight, can I get him to take his antibiotic by mouth this time, this avoiding hospital. Your reflection hits home. God Bless Anne

  3. Jack Says:

    Thanks for adding this. Just printed it and framed it for the wall.

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