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In Sickness and in Health
A commitment made in harmony with unimaginable importance
The word caregiver has many meanings,
with definitions that run the gamut of tasks on a broad
continuum, from simple household chores to end-stage
palliative care and everything in between. It’s
something many of us never give a second thought.
Caregiving—we believe—is for children, the elderly and
those who are ill, but not for us, those who are
healthy. We have jobs to do, schools to attend, families
to raise, and finally a retirement to enjoy.
I know, because I was one of those—fifty-six years old
and healthy as the proverbial horse. Didn’t smoke, ate
healthy and exercised, but nevertheless, a physical
anomaly occurred that sidetracked not only my life but
my wife’s as well.
First came the stumbling, then the cane. Then came the
diagnosis—a cousin to Lou Gehrig’s disease—primary
lateral sclerosis. Major symptoms include loss of
balance, weakening of legs and arms, swallowing and
speech difficulties. The loss of bladder control is but
one of many minor symptoms, all irreversible.
After many hard falls, I was ordered to use a walker. I
resisted, even denied the progression of the disease;
but for the sake of others, I eventually acquiesced.
Now, some years later, a motorized wheelchair gets me
around and a breathing machine helps inflate my lungs at
night. You might say my life has changed for the worse,
and from a bystander’s point of view, that could be so.
But wait. Before you stop reading, thinking I’m looking
for sympathy—some poor creature riddled with
In her career, my wife rose to executive leadership
positions within two state agencies. She is one of those
rare people who interacts remarkably well with people
and leads by example—a true class act. If she had chosen
to do so, Peggy could have aspired to even greater
things, but duty called. Everything was put on hold,
moved to the back burner, to use an overworked metaphor.
After thirty years of hard work, some life plans were
simply scrapped in favor of crafting an environment of
physical and emotional independence for me.
I recall the exchange of vows. “Do you take this man…to
love and cherish…in sickness and in health?” Her answer
was yes; her teary eyes and warm smile confirmed it.
My disease cannot be overlooked or ignored. It’s there
no matter where we are, what we are doing, or what time
of day it is; but the focus is never on the malady. The
focus is always on what can be done despite the malady.