I wipe her tears. What she fears most is losing her mind, and she knows it’s happening, although she doesn’t realise the extent. She longs to die, she prays that the Lord will take her, but it doesn’t happen and the living hell continues.
My heart breaks.
And then there’s my friend caring for her husband with Alzheimer’s disease. He lives with constant frustration and confusion, and anxiety that keeps him constantly under her elbow, like a frightened child holding tight to his mother's skirt. She’s his security and she's being crushed under the weight of the constancy of it all – the never-ending-ness of the questions and the fear. She can’t leave him, so she has no respite, no time to recharge and draw breathe before starting again. It’s taking its toll of her and I wonder how much longer she can keep going.
It all seems so cruel, so ugly. Is there any sense to it all?
In what felt like a moment of holiness, I saw the beauty. The beauty of her faith — unfaded, unlike her body — faith grown over a lifetime of living for her Saviour, sustaining her to the end. And then she smiled, her beautiful radiant smile that hasn’t faded either. In that rare moment I felt I met her very soul — beyond the crippled hands and twisted body, I experiencing the beauty of her inner being.
In the midst of the ravages of age and the hideousness of suffering is the last place I expected to find beauty … but its there.
I see beauty in the enormous courage of my friends as they care for their husbands with all the sacrifice that requires. The beauty of their devotion and perseverance and the commitment to get up every morning and do it all again and again and again … until death us do part.
It's easy to limit beauty to something that pleases the aesthetic senses, something that gives delight and joy, something warm that makes my heart want to sing.
But maybe we need to redefine it, to set it free from the limitations we put on it — to develop eyes to see it in the broader context of life — life stripped bare from self sufficiency. Maybe, just maybe the deepest, richest beauty of all is the beauty of the human spirit.