Thursday, September 15, 2011


While we're on the subject of marriage...

I recently read a heart-breaking article which reported that on his show yesterday (starts at 50:40), a well-known tv preacher told a caller that it was ok for her friend to divorce a spouse suffering with Alzheimer's. His reasoning was that the disease is a form of death.

I won't deny that Alzheimer's is a terribly tragic diseases, especially for the family and caretakers. But how incredibly sad that instead of counseling someone to sacrifice his own convenience to care for his beloved spouse when she needs him most, a well-known pastor would tell the caller's friend he could "make sure she has custodial care", divorce her, and then begin dating other people (in his words, "...start all over again").

This was particularly difficult for me, as my grandmother has recently begun showing signs of dementia.

 I've known for a while that my grandmother's memory is in decline, but when there is real evidence (this week she mailed me a strange document twice, with no note), it hit me much harder. I'm not back home to see her regularly - so when I experience her memory lapses it seems so shocking and out of character. My grandmother has always been the one who never forgets. She never missed sending a birthday card, her monthly newsletter, or writing to her many, many correspondents. (she's been writing to the same penpal for over 50 years!) So its really sad to see her struggling, but now is when she needs her family most.

I sincerely hope that neither E nor I ever has to experience Alzheimer's, but we certainly feel that we made marriage vows to stay faithful until the end, even if its hard or unpleasant.
What do you think?

ps. Here's a really heart-warming story about a man who sacrificed his career to care for his Alzheimer's ridden wife


e.louise {Liz} said...

I also read this article and was very disturbed. I think the thing that most disturbed me was that he associated Alzheimer's to pretty much death. And then where do you draw the line with that? What about terminal illnesses such as cancer? What about illnesses that are incurable?
I am so sorry to hear that about your grandmother. I hope that she is doing okay :(
Also, there is a really good (but sad) movie I saw that addresses this very difficult issue: Away from Her-

Jill said...

I saw something about that this morning and honestly thought it was a joke. Actually reading the article and seeing it was true made me so sad for that man. How could anyone, especially someone in that type of position, tell a person it is ok to divorce due to illness? Do they not care about how the person with that illness feels? My Grandmother went through the same thing. It put a strain on all of us but we stuck with her until she passed away. Even when she didn't know who we were, we felt like she knew deep inside that we were people who meant something to her and loved her beyond reason.

Lissa said...

I will read the article, but just from your review of it...I am disgusted.
My grandmother has Alzheimer's so I understand the sadness and difficulty that is associated with it. With out without all of their memory, they deserve love...not to be divorced and discarded.
My prayers go out to your family while dealing with these growing issues with your grandmother. I also pray that God will convict the heart of the Preacher to understand how wrong he is!

melinda said...

He's just flat out wrong about this. I went to Regent for grad school, so I got my fair share of Pat's good and bad. His own mental astuteness seems to be slipping more and more in his old age.

My personal take on the situation is the golden rule - I would hope that my husband would stand by me and help me, and I would do the same for him. As children, my mom took us to volunteer at an Alzheimers nursing home. While it's a devastating disease, every person with it is still very much human and their life is of value.

@e.louise, I agree with you - if you say Alzheimer's is as good as dead, then where does one draw the line? That's an excellent question and one that more and more I'm feeling quite conservative about as far as preserving all human life with dignity and respect.

Anonymous said...

I can't understand this mindset. Wedding vows include through sickness and health. When your spouse is sick that is when you are needed most. It is not the time to abandon him or her. It is often the hardest thing to go through, especially if the illness is terminal, but the time should be seen as a gift, not a burden.

I'm sorry about your grandmother. Seeing such changes in a loved one is really difficult. I came across on article about a book written by a daughter regarding her experience with her mother and alzheimers. The article is here:

Geek in Heels said...

I am appalled to read this, and saddened that someone in his position would publicly give such advice. My grandmother had alzheimers, and I still remember the love and devotion my grandfather had for her until the very end, when she couldn't even recognize him anymore. I'm so sorry to read about your own grandmother — alzheimers is such a heartbreaking disease, and I will keep your family in my prayers.

Kelly Loy Gilbert said...

I've never been able to take Pat Robertson all that seriously, but I actually have mixed feelings about this. My grandfather died after a long, long time with Alzheimer's, and watching the toll it took on my (extremely faithful) grandma was really brutal.

It was around that time that the movie The Notebook came out, and I watched and remember being really, really livid at the message that 'love conquers all, even Alzheimer's'--it seemed like it was just willfully ignoring the terrible reality of the disease. And I kind of have to agree with Robertson to some extent, that it really is a kind of death. With Alzheimer's you lose the person twice--once to the disease and once to the actual death. It really was one of the ugliest things I've ever seen happen to someone.

I so admire my grandmother for her devotion, but I think I probably wouldn't necessarily judge someone for her choice if she found herself unable to do the same things my grandmother did. And, I don't know, I was thinking about this this morning when I woke up and talking to J in bed, and I was thinking about what I'd want for him if I had Alzheimer's. I think if he had been taking care of me for years and I didn't recognize him or recognize anyone and I were pretty mentally gone, I'd want him to be able to find companionship with someone else if that's what he needed (though I'd hope he wouldn't just like abandon me altogether! But honestly, even if he did, I probably wouldn't actually notice one way or the other).

I don't know. I can definitely understand the horror at his comments, but I feel like it's sort of a complex, heartbreaking issue and anyone in it definitely deserves a lot of compassion and grace for whatever tough choices they have to make.

Really interesting post--I really enjoyed hearing what others thought!

Kelly Loy Gilbert said...

That said, though, I've always been afraid my dad will get Alzheimer's too, and the thought of everyone abandoning him is absolutely heartbreaking, and I'd be pretty upset if my mom just like bailed. So who knows.

Kelly Loy Gilbert said...

Maybe (hahaha sorry, I'm totally spamming your comments! This was just a really thought-provoking post for me) there's some middle ground between not abandoning your spouse but also being able to find companionship and love in the meantime? I don't know. Or maybe life is just supposed to be hard and you suck it up ? i genuinely don't know. Thanks for a great post, though, Katie :)

beka said...

That video was incredible, such love that man had. I hope I would always honor my vows, sickness and health. My grandma had dementia and it's a terrible sickness. I can't imagine the one person I love most not knowing me.

I don't think I could judge someone for the decision they would make in that situation. I think I would want my husband to take care of me. But I think I would also want him to have more in his life than the daily tragedy of seeing me become less and less me every day. So I don't know what the answer would be.

I hope I'm never in that situation. But I also hope that if I am, I'll act in such a manner that honors the vow I made to forsake all others until death do us part.

Katie said...

Oh my goodness. I had not yet seen this article/heard about it, and it makes my heart hurt.

My grandfather passed away with Alzheimer's a few years ago. I know that it was incredibly hard for my grandmother (and my mom, the rest of the family, etc) to go through. But to just write him off as dead once he gets the diagnosis?!?! That is a tough pill to swallow. I can't believe someone in their right mind would think that is appropriate. Also, if someone is actually considering walking away from their spouse if they get Alzheimer's...I would question their devotion in the first place.

In our case, my grandmother loved my grandfather dearly, and I know it hurt her every day to watch his memory fade away to the point where he just called her "that lady who follows me around all day." I cried when they came to visit and he didn't really know who I was anymore (he kept calling me my mom's name...which makes sense I guess because I look just like her when she was young). But to walk away from him and abandon him? What a horrible thought! How about making the most out of the time left. Certainly, he was not the same, but my grandmother made sure to spend time with him each and every day once he had to be in the hospital full-time...showing him pictures and telling him stories. She was obviously very sad when he passed away, but she has told me on multiple occasions that she regrets nothing about their life together and the time that they spent.

Anyway, I am so sorry about your grandmother: I know how tough that can be on a family. I'm glad to hear that your family is there for her! :)

Anna said...

I just was catching up on your blog and came across this post.

Did you ever meet my Grandma Gesch? She was awesome. Sounds a lot like your grandma. She was famous worldwide for being a letter-writer to missionaries for decades as well. Sounds like they would have gotten along!

Also, she and I would correspond while I was in college and the last school year (end of sophomore/beginning of junior year) I started getting stuff that didn't make sense, she would repeat herself a lot, and also she would send along pictures of my dad growing up with a caption saying it was my grandpa. It was so sad, yet of course I would laugh it off too at how heartwarming it was at times. I know she meant it all as a loving gesture. Hang in there with your grandma.

And not for one second did my Grandpa ever consider that she was weighing him down or becoming a nuissance. She was still his sweetheart til the day she died. He still doesn't know what to do with himself without her. And one of her last few days, spent in the hospital, was their 68th wedding anniversary. Pretty awesome people. :)

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