September 11, 2014

A New Perspective…

Gary Thomas — 

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In a culture that celebrates young love, senior citizens can humble us with their depth of devotion. Sit back and enjoy a tender true story of a young doctor who discovered what over fifty years of faithful marriage can do to a man…

(This is a guest post written by my friend Dr. Greg Bledsoe) 

 

Have you ever had a situation where your perception of some event or entity changed dramatically in an instant? 

I specifically remember an instance of this happening to me while working as a junior medical student in a Family Practice clinic.

It was a typical day and I was doing the typical thing that you’re supposed to do as a medical student—feign interest in the clinic’s goings on and try not to get in the way.

It had been one patient after another until eventually we walked into the room of an elderly female patient and her husband.

The patient was close to eighty years old and wheelchair bound.  Her limbs were contracted with some neuromuscular disease, and she sat tilted to the side with her mouth agape, drooling.

It was a pitiful sight.

What was unusual was the spry energy of her spouse.  He was alert, mentally sharp, even loquacious.  He was equal to his feeble wife in age, but in far better health.  I was surprised because so often it is the other way around.  We men tend to go downhill much more quickly than women, so usually it’s a feeble husband being cared for by his healthy wife.

I must confess, I felt sorry for this husband.

Even though he seemed to be in good spirits—and during the course of our visit took care to wipe the drool off his wife’s chin so it didn’t stain her shirt—I could imagine that it was a difficult situation.  His wife obviously needed much care, and by her records I could see she still lived at home with him.

I was preoccupied with this line of thinking when the resident physician I was working with received a page and stepped into the hall to answer it, leaving me sitting alone in the clinic exam room with this patient and her husband.

It was a bit awkward.

At this point in my medical training I was basically an observer, so there was nothing I could contribute to the patient’s medical care on my own.  With my resident out in the hall, the clinic visit had come to a halt, and the patient’s husband and I were left sitting together in the presence of his drooling, and occasionally moaning, wife with nothing more to do than make polite small talk.

However, I didn’t really know what to say.

I remember formulating in my mind some clichéd phrase to say in an attempt to demonstrate that I recognized the difficulty of his situation.  Just as I opened my mouth to speak it, though, his voice broke the awkwardness.

“She’s my fishing buddy, you know,” he said.

“I’m sorry?” I asked, not really sure what he was getting at.

“She’s my fishing buddy. Me and her have fished all over,” he said.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yep.  We used to set trot lines in the lake over there and get up every morning to check them,” he replied, “We’ve been married over fifty years.”

I stared at this man.

His eyes were sparkling, his mouth wide in a jovial, somewhat toothless grin.

He was beaming.

“Yes sir, this one here’s my fishing buddy, ” he said again, as he gently took her hand and affectionately smiled in her direction.

For the next ten minutes I was transfixed as this man, who moments before I had pitied, regaled me with story after story of his life together with his wife.  It was incredible.  What was even more incredible, however, was the change that occurred in me.

Watching this elderly man caress his wife’s hand, kiss her cheek, wipe away her drool, and joyfully recount their lives together provoked a powerful transformation of perspective within me. Gone was any semblance of pity.

Instead, in its place was…envy.

 

 

Gregory Bledsoe, MD, MPH, is a board certified Emergency Medicine physician and the chief editor of Expedition and Wilderness Medicine (Cambridge). He has been published in numerous medical journals and blogs regularly at ghbledsoe.com

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6 responses to A New Perspective…

  1. Amazing truth right there. Bcz it is easier to b love when its favorable and sweet and new and filled with emotions,the real challenge is living when all that is no more,now that takes God,bcz that’s the Gkd kind of love am challenged and inspired that 50 years fro. Now,my love story should still be epic.
    thanks Garry.

  2. Love isn’t all the trinkets a person can fill up the house with. It’s giving of one’s self, a sacrifice, so that another can live or continue on. Beautiful post and I’m sure it is enviable to many including myself as it is not common to see out in the world and sadly, not often enough in our own lives and churches.

  3. This man’s life puts reality in words I heard recently from Bob Buford’s Aspen Ideas message – Love isn’t an emotion – it is a motivational force. I’ve been mulling this for a week now. Thanks for the vivid picture of this truth.

  4. This is the picture of love that young couples need when they say “I do”. I think that when marriage makes you holy you become happier. I think about the change that has occured between me and my wife over 10 years of marriage. I no longer see her as just my wife, but my confidant, friend, helper and quite honestly the best friend I have ever had. God did that. I only hope to have the strength of this man later in my life.

  5. What a beautiful post!
    Where did we lose our admiration for those with the courage to finish the race well?

    • That’s why I was so eager to post this; for every romantic comedy featuring young, energetic love just beginning, we need to be reminded of where and how love is supposed to end.