By Michael Cook
Tracy Grant is a deputy managing editor at The Washington Post. [Ten years ago] her husband Bill was diagnosed with brain cancer and went downhill very quickly. But she says in this video that the experience drew the best out of her and made her a better person. Her article, on which this video is based, was headlined, “I was my husband’s caregiver as he was dying of cancer. It was the best seven months of my life.”
In this incredibly moving and sincere testimonial from a hard-edged journalist, there seem to be four messages.
First, her husband’s decline from health to helplessness helped her to discover the meaning of her life: “I had become a respected professional, a responsible and, I hope, loved parent, but I had yet to discover the reason I was put on this earth. During those seven months, I came to understand that whatever else I did in my life, nothing would matter more than this. Even though I really didn’t know how this would end.”
Second, she discovered beauty: “I found I could train myself to see more beauty than bother, to set my internal barometer to be more compassionate than callous. But I also discovered that with each day, my heart and soul grew more open to seeing this beauty than at any other time in my life.”
Third, she discovered, or rediscovered, gratitude: “Several months ago, during a town hall, Hillary Clinton was asked about her faith. She spoke about daily meditations that her faith adviser offers her and said that one has become a touchstone for her. ‘Practice the discipline of gratitude,’ she said. I had never thought about the lessons of Bill’s illness in quite that way but as soon as I heard it, I realized that that’s just what I had been doing those months: I had been training myself to be grateful. It’s a very Hillary Clinton-type thought, discipline and gratitude sharing the same sentence. But it was also my mantra, one I’d recommend to every caregiver.”
And fourth, she discovered, or rediscovered, faith:
When I couldn’t sleep during those nights, I took to praying the rosary and then began praying it daily even if I had no difficulty sleeping. There is a reason that prayer beads are common in so many religious traditions dating to well before Christ. For me the repetition of the Hail Mary while caressing pearlescent beads helped slow my breathing, calm my mind. I came to feel naked if I didn’t have beads in a pocket or a purse, within easy reach while scans were performed, IVs dripped, test results were waited for.
Even during the moments when I was most angry with God, I found that I could talk to Mary on the theory that she knew a little bit about being challenged by God. Today, saying the rosary is part of my morning ritual, done while walking the dog and bearing witness to the moment when night relinquishes its purchase to a new day.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. He did a BA at Harvard University in the US where it was good for networking, but moved to Sydney where it wasn’t. He also did a PhD on an obscure corner of Australian literature. He has worked as a book editor and magazine editor and has published articles in magazines and newspapers in the US, the UK and Australia. Currently he is the editor of BioEdge, a newsletter about bioethics, and MercatorNet. He also writes a bioethics column for Australasian Science and contributes occasional op-ed pieces to newspapers and websites in the US, UK and Australia.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at mercatornet.com/careful/view/a-wifes-love-for-her-dying-husband/18752.