Archive | 20:08

You’re Only As Old As The Woman You Feel

26 Jan

As a result of today’s Thought For The Day, the poor Hub has just discovered he is middle-aged…I have had my first night sweat. It was like waking up in a fridge of watery vaseline (ah, that takes me back a few years). Unpleasant but bearable. Roll on hot flushes! I’m a man; I can take it.

One consequence of the onset of old age is that it has given me more empathy for my husband. In spite of being a man and younger than me, he has been suffering night sweats for the past fourteen years. Night sweats, day sweats, hot sweats, cold sweats (there’s a poem in there somewhere) – all have plagued him as symptoms of his CFS/ME. I have washed his sweaty clothes and sympathised but until yesterday I had never truly appreciated how horrible they are to experience.

I’m not great on empathy, I must admit; particularly when it comes to mothers mistreating – as I see it – their children. I never got the feminist position on Sylvia Plath, for example, that it was okay to commit suicide by gassing herself because she put food in the children’s cot and wet towels to seal the doors. How positively caring of her. Never mind that they might not have been found for days or they could have been accidentally blown up; and what about the long-term consequences of knowing that your mother preferred to kill herself than care for you? I know she suffered severe depression and I’m not knocking the effects of that awful illness, but I just cannot imagine any circumstance in which I would choose death over the well-being of my children.

Which brings me to the real issue of today’s blog, because I cannot avoid it any longer: the ‘not guilty’ verdict on Bridget Kathleen [Kay] Gilderdale, the mother who assisted in her daughter’s suicide. Her daughter Lynn had CFS/ME; was paralysed by it; had to be fed through a tube; and could only communicate by sign language. Mrs Gilderdale cared for her daughter round-the-clock for seventeen years and watched her waste away. I can’t begin to imagine how terrible that must have been for her. My husband has severe symptoms that are getting slowly but steadily worse, but he can still walk, eat and drive. He can talk to me, shout to me, rage at me and reach over to kiss me. Yes, he does it all in great pain and through gritted teeth (especially the kissing part, but that might be a consequence of my bad breath), and there are days and sometimes weeks when he can’t do any of those things and must stay in bed, but I cannot yet envision a time when he begs me for help to end his suffering.

Inevitably, the question must occur to those who live with people with long-term health issues: would I kill a person I love if they asked me to? My own answer is ‘no’ – at the moment. But I have not walked in Mrs Gilderdale’s shoes. What would I do if my husband was so incapacitated that he had to rely on me for everything? We have discussed it before and he would not want to live like that. Do I love my husband enough to kill him? I honestly don’t know. I hope so. I hope not. My faith tells me that murder is wrong; is mercy killing murder? The jury in this case say not; the jury last week in the case of Frances Inglis said it was. The law is undecided.

How much love Mrs Gilderdale must have for her daughter to take such a step, knowing that she would probably go to jail; but she could not refuse her daughter’s plea, no matter the cost to herself; and here I mean Lynn’s death. I cannot imagine anything worse happening in my life than the death of one of my children. I feel physically sick just writing about it. Think how it must feel knowing you caused it.

I never really understood the lyrics of a Jim Steinman song until now: I would do anything for love but I won’t do that. Am I selfish to put my own feelings first? I think I probably am. I can only sadly admire Mrs Gilderdale’s love and courage and pray that I never have to find out if I have it too.

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