Willie is not doing well. For those who follow my blog, you will remember he lost his wife, Maggie, a little over a month ago. Maggie was his entire world;having stood by his side for over 60 years. Due to dementia, Willie is surprised every hour to learn of her death. Every day, he mourns the loss of his first and only, eternal love.
I walked outside of the facility yesterday to find Willie sitting on the patio, weeping. I knew the answer to my question before I asked.
“Willie, what’s wrong?” I asked as I sat down beside him.
“It’s Maggie. She died.She’s gone. I miss my wife.” His sobs are heartbreaking.
What is it that I can say to this man, who is cognitively aware enough to know that his wife passed away, but yet cognitively impaired to the point where he doesn’t understand the time lapse? Words such as “Everything will be okay”, “I understand”, or even “I am sorry for your loss”, are just not enough. So, I sit quietly beside him, placing my arm around his shoulder, hoping to comfort him.
“Now they are taking my house. They put me here in this old folks home where everyone is crazy. They say I can’t live alone. The court is putting somebody in charge of me, look at this letter”.” He hands me a tattered, worn letter that is dated four days after his wife’s death. The letter is an official notice from the courts, stating that Willie will have a court appointed guardian, complete with a hearing date, in case he wishes to appeal. I have seen the letter numerous times and each time I ask, “What are you going to do?” Each time, Willie begins to sob, holding his face in his hands and replies:
“I just want to die. I lost Maggie, she died this morning. I lost my house, they won’t let me live in it anymore. Now they say I am not adequate enough to live alone. They think I am crazy, too crazy to take care of myself. I served in three wars, I am a decorated Marine, I sure as hell can take care of myself. I miss my wife, I miss her, I just want to die.I just want to die.”
You know, all the degrees on my office wall are useless in moments like this. I draw on my own inner strength to comfort him, but in reality, there is no comfort to be found. He recognizes his losses and knows there is no way he can recover them.
In some ways, I envy the life Willie has lived. He served God and his Country, married his childhood sweetheart, lived a wonderful full life. Today, I feel his loss and in a way, I hope I never feel the devastation of a broken heart, such as his.
I honestly believe dementia, nor heart disease or even old age will take Willie’s life. I believe he will die from a broken heart…….medicine can fix a lot of things, but there is cure for a broken heart, not today, nor will there ever be. So, each day, I will sit with Willie…..and wait………..