Each morning, he’d be there promptly at 7:30 to feed his wife. I never really saw her, though I lived at that nursing home for two years, but I knew she was in a “vegetative” state. If she knew he was there, she had no way of showing recognition, so it obviously follows that she couldn’t express appreciation, let alone affection or companionship. He’d feed her, change her Depends, and leave carrying a bag with her soiled diaper. Then he’d return each evening, shortly after 5:00, to feed her supper. Again, he’d leave with a bag.
He was good-looking, probably in his mid-sixties. He could have had an active social life….if he’d chosen to divorce his wife. Instead he’d come to the nursing home seven days a week, always cheerfully, and sometimes with goodies for the staff. If he came grudgingly, nobody ever could have detected such an attitude, for he had a lightness in his step, a smile on his face, and gentle wisecracks calculated to entertain the nurses.
Over the years since I left the nursing home, I’ve regretted the fact that I never told him how deeply I admired him for his selfless devotion to his wife. He modeled the Biblical command for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved His Church (Ephesians 5:25-29), gaining nothing for his efforts but sacrificing more than anyone would attempt to imagine. I wish I’d told him how his faithfulness touched and inspired me, for I still think of him as a powerful example of how married love should manifest itself.
Today he’s on my mind, this time in vivid contrast to the deterioration of Biblical standards among those who claim to represent Jesus Christ and His Word. Specifically, in September of 2011, televangelist Pat Robertson famously advised a husband of an Alzheimer’s sufferer to obtain a divorce, assuring him, “She’s not really there anyway.” Somehow, I think Robertson has missed the mark. And that the man I watched twice a day hit the bull’s eye.