I know two women who are missing out on the best potential time of their lives. They are looking after their elderly husbands. Many years ago, each married a man who was around twenty years older than they were. At the time, each woman was not coping well alone. Their husbands provided much needed emotional and financial security.
For around thirty years, the marriages survived and were reasonably happy, but in recent years there has been a change. The men grew old and became ill. Both men were successful in their businesses, seeing themselves as strong, protective and capable. Now they are struggling to cope with their physical demise. Their wives describe them as weak, needy and demanding. Both women are tired, frustrated and resentful. They hate looking after these men who once looked after them.
Blanche d’Alpuget didn’t miss out. She was the main carer of her husband, Bob Hawke, the former prime minister, nursing him during the last year of his life when he was at his weakest.
After his death, she said the joy of mature love involves great softness and intimacy with no pretence or secrets, and that she found it wonderful to look after the one she loved.
We often said to each other that we’ve been blessed to have this period together.
[It has been] the most tender and intimate of our whole lives. For me [our relationship ranged from] the wild excitement of sexual ecstasy to the great tenderness of looking after a person who was completely dependent upon me. And there is much greater intimacy, actually, in looking after somebody who is in that debilitated state than there is in even the wildest sex.
Some people might find it difficult to believe that caring for a loved one can be so gratifying. But I have come across this before in my clients. Some feel like this in their current lives and some have felt it about their past lives. One of the latter is Lorraine.
In the regression, Lorraine re-lived a past life in America as a man, Jimmy, who married in mid-life. Three years after they married, his wife, Maddy, fell off a horse and was crippled.
She is sitting in a rocking chair and I am bringing her iced tea on a platter. I am the carer. I just want to look after her because she is so brave, and I love her so much. We didn’t have any children and we really wanted them. There is a sadness about that in her.
I am looking at the sunset, realising there is more to life than children. She appreciates the care I give her.
We are sitting on the porch of a two-story house, near the town. I see horses going by. We have lots of friends and they and others come by and say hello.
We love bantering, being funny, singing, talking and dreaming together. She is not demanding but she does have a mind of her own. She has a view about things, she reads and teaches me what she knows. I had to wait a long time for her to come into my life
There is a piano in the house, and I play it in the evenings. Now we are having a drink together. I carry her upstairs to bed. Although it is limited; it is a lovely life.
Now I see myself on the porch alone, feeling sad. She is gone.
I died around 60, from a heart attack about five years after she passed. I grew some plants for her and watched them grow. It was too long. I missed her.
We made a pact. She would like to look after me next time. She is my friend and the love of my life. That is why I love sunflowers. I planted some.
I feel peaceful now. I see that it is important to appreciate looking after another and doing so is joy. It was pure joy looking after her with the love between us.
No doubt it takes a lot of energy looking after another who is needy. There are times of exhaustion and frustration. But it gives us an opportunity to reach into the most loving part of ourselves rather than giving into resentment. To do this, our love for ourselves needs to be strong and resilient, as strong as our love for another.
We are spiritually mature when we realise it is privilege to be either the carer, or the one being cared for.