[ this end up ]

Love Story

In Love, Non-fiction, Writing on February 13, 2011 at 12 am

A lady in a nursing facility passed away recently. Her name was Janet. She’d lived there for eight years and for the entire eight was in a complete vegetative state. She was one of the few residents of the nursing facility that visitors felt uncomfortable looking at.

It was the look on her face that did it. Janet’s mouth was always half-open and in her eyes was terror, pure terror.

She lived mostly paralyzed with exception to her hands, which were aways shaking. She often held those shaking hands up near her face. This shaking, in proximity to her terrified eyes, made it appear as though she believed she was being attacked and was fearfully defending herself. It is a terrible thing, the face of someone who is being attacked from within. 

When visitors to the nursing facility saw her they looked away and would think that life can be cruel, to leave some of us so ravaged yet alive, unable to rest in peace.

Her husband had lived there with her. They’d shared a room.

A visitor may’ve seen him moving through the halls in his wheelchair. He usually had a bewildered look on his face. It was clear, looking into his face, he wasn’t completely in the moment. One thing, however, was very clear to visitors: This man loved his wife. They’d often hear his voice, still strong in his weakened body, booming: “Who’s Janet’s aide today?” A nurse would inform him and minutes later he’d ask again, since he wasn’t completely in the moment, and again the nurse would answer.

Usually a visitor would see the man sitting next to his wife’s mostly paralyzed body. He’d sit by her, all day, often with his hand on her leg. Sometimes he’d read to her, but mostly he’d just sit near and ask any passerby who Janet’s aide was.

He never appeared dismayed at her condition. He never looked away as so many did. He looked happy sitting there, next to his wife.

He recently passed away. Six weeks later Janet also passed away.

Over the past eight years many people, upon seeing Janet, felt ashamed to believe that living as she was was no way to live. Better she die than live one day longer, defending against an imagined assaulter.

That Janet quickly followed her husband to death may allow for an alternate viewpoint, one that celebrates her last vegetative years. It’s possible that Janet stayed in that body because to do otherwise would’ve destroyed her husband, who so dearly loved her.

For eight years she spent her waking hours sitting, motionless, save for those hands, and for eight years she allowed her husband to retain the joy of loving and being loved. The only joy he had. When he died she lost her one reason to live in that shell, her shaking hands stilled and she joined him.


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