You see lots of sad things as a paramedic:
A person leaving home for the last time, knowing that they’ll die in hospital and saying goodbye to their pets for the last time.
The parent mourning their child.
Or a family member wishing the tortuous process of their relative getting worse and then better again would simply end with death.
Often however, it is the patients who are alive who have the saddest stories.
We were called out mid morning, to an older part of town. It was an average looking house, with a finicky latch on a rundown, ivy covered gate. Emerging slowly from the front door, stumbled a little old man.
Usually when people come to meet us, they rush forward, blurting out information about the call. Strangely, this man was silent. “Did you call an ambulance?”
A stifled cry was all he could reply with. As we wandered closer we saw tears in his eyes. With despair, he murmured: “she’s yelling at me, just keeps yelling…. I don’t know what to do anymore…. ”
Inside the house, hand written signs hung, reading things like “no dogs here, died of old age”. The little old man’s wife had dementure.
With her recollection of events gone, the photos and trophies which remained of their life together were all this grieving old man had left with which to recall the previously wonderful life they’d led together/
He had done his best for the last 7 years to care for her. To keep her safe and have her at home. For 7 years he had slowly watched her memories of their marriage, their children and all they had built as a couple fade into nothing.
Each day he sacrificed his own joy, for hers. He helped to bathe her, dress her and feed her… and all she could remember was his name, and how he had had the dog put down after it was hit by a car 5 years ago.
She was agitated and distressed. He was exhausted and heart broken.
We took her to the hospital, where she would be referred to various services and later placed in the dementure ward.
He stayed at home, alone. Knowing truly for the first time in a long time, that he would be coming home alone, every night to an empty house.
Jobs like this hit home harder than most.
Yet the Christian imagery couldn’t escape me: as often as bible verses about marriage are misquoted in abuse, this one is neglected in defense:
Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
That’s a pretty high standard. Each day, surrendering your own needs entirely and serving your wife. For however long it takes. When physical death hasn’t separated you yet.
As saddening as it was to reassure the old man that we would take care of his wife, and that he could see her soon. To watch him stare forlornly at us from his driveway as we drove away, it was remarkably inspiring to see that deep committed love like that indeed exists.
Because we work in a job, in a world where love like that is rare. And I think that’s what’s saddest.
So I hope you love your partner like that. If you don’t… you should ask yourself: why?