"For Better or for Worse": A caregiver's unvarnished chronicle

By Lisa Ohlen Harris
Books & Culture

No Saints Around Here by Susan Allen TothMy mother-in-law shared a home with my family for seven years, and as her health declined, I became her primary caregiver. Since Jeanne's death in 2008, I've read dozens of books on caregiving and end-of-life issues. When I look back at my years of caregiving, I don't feel the same sense of darkness and loss I once felt. Sometimes I even feel victorious in a way, because I made it through. I cared for Jeanne to the end. I did the right thing. And now I am free—for the time being. I know another season of caregiving is ahead of me—for my own parents, for my husband, for a close friend or one of my children when some unforeseen illness or disability interrupts our plans. When we pledge, "for better or for worse," we envision walking off into the sunset hand-in-hand. What bride sees future dementia in the shining eyes of her groom? We live in a broken, fallen world. We will all die, and many of us will die slowly. Most of us live as if it won't happen to us, to our loved ones, but it will. And when it does, there's no way out but through.

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