05 March 2009

raining down gently

One of my classmates (dear Suzy pictured below in blue on the right) posted this today. It seems appropriate that more people should be privy to this story. Let me know what you think.

This excerpt is from A Promise Kept: The Story of An Unforgettable Love, by Dr. Robertson McQuilkin, who stepped down as President of Columbia International University in order to care for his wife, who was suffering from Alzheimers Disease:

“Twenty-two years is a long time. But then again, it can be shorter than one anticipates. And how do you say good-bye to friends you do not wish to leave?

The decision to come to Columbia was the most difficult I have had to make; the decision to leave 22 years later, though painful, was one of the easiest. It was almost as if God engineered the circumstances so that I had no alternatives. Let me explain:

My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health for about 12 years. So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibility at Columbia. But recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just ‘discontent.’ She is filled with fear – even terror – that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time.

Perhaps it would help you understand if I shared with you what I shared in chapel at the time of the announcement of my resignation. The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel ‘in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part.’ So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of her debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more: I love Muriel. She is a delight to me – her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I don’t have to care for her. I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.” (21-22)

Here is what Dr. McQuilkin says about memories:

“Memories help too. Muriel stocked the cupboard of my mind with the best of them. I often live again a special moment of love she planned so creatively or laugh at some remembered outburst of her irrepressible approach to life. Sometimes the happy doesn’t bubble up with joy, but rains down gently with tears. When Joy Gresham reminded C. S. Lewis that their joy would soon end, that she would die, he replied that he didn’t want to think about that. Joy responded, ‘The pain is part of the happiness. That’s the deal.’ In the summer of ’95 Muriel’s right hand went limp – the first major decline since she lost the ability to stand to feed herself eighteen months before. A little loss, you would think, but I shed a few tears. It’s almost like part of me dies with each of her little deaths. That precious hand, so creative, so loving, so busy for me and everyone else. But it wasn’t just the old memories. That right hand was the last way she had to communicate. She would reach out to hold hands, pat me on the back when I hugged her, push me away when she didn’t like what I was doing. I missed her hand. Memories, sweet and bittersweet. (63-64)

1 comment:

la said...

he is SO cute. and his thoughts are beautiful in a world where marriage looks like, "You aren't making me happy. I'm leaving."