Many people have died in this community in the years I have covered the news here. One death a couple of years ago stands out because I know quite well the man’s wife.
It was her behavior in the six months leading up to that death that took my breath away.
This woman’s serene reaction the day her husband’s brain cancer was diagnosed was the first indication that she would handle that tormenting road ahead with extraordinary grace.
Leading up to the diagnosis, she had expressed quiet concern with his personality changes and minor thinking problems. She mentioned his growing fatigue and memory loss. He often appeared confused, clumsy and began barely lifting his feet when he walked. His balance was off kilter.
At times and especially at night, her husband of some two decades was racked with anxiety. Toward the end he seemed to experience episodes of sheer terror. She would sit patiently at his bedside, night after night, holding his hand and speaking softly to make him feel safe.
Her composure was inspiring. There were moments she expressed feeling helpless that she couldn’t do more to lessen his suffering. She didn’t complain. She didn’t exhibit anger. She directed her energy to locating anything available to make him feel better.
In her husband’s final weeks she brought in a music therapist who specializes in end of life care. The calming effect from that music was visible as his fretful demeanor transformed, and he fell into peaceful sleep.
Watching her husband decline was certainly agonizing for her and I am certain she grieved daily knowing she would never again spend time with the man she married. I will always admire her for the amazing care she took of him during those heartbreaking months. She kept him in their home where he was most happy.
No one could ask for a more dedicated caregiver and Los Alamos is fortunate to have my friend and hundreds of compassionate caregivers just like her living among us.