This is a personal email I sent after reading this article in the Wall Street Journal
Dear Dr. G.,
I am writing to you as a member of The United Methodist Church and not as the staff writer of a United Methodist agency. My husband has Parkinson’s Disease and I attend a support group for spouses of the chronically ill.
It’s great that the United Methodist Church was mentioned in the article in the Wall Street Journal on Love and Alzheimer’s!
In a loving, kind, and diplomatic way, I ask you to reconsider that the marriage vows of “sickness and health” apply to marriages where one of the spouses has serious mental compromises. I believe that this view has caused the well spouses to become unhealthy, unhappy, and uncaring for their own basic needs, contributing to the stark statistic of earlier deaths of the caregiving spouse.
A lovely older gentleman, Gil, in a support group I attend has been often near tears about his wife’s demise with Alzheimer’s. She is currently in a nursing home and has no recognition of her husband. He has found friendship, love and solace with another woman, who often visits the nursing home with Gil. Our support group has been heartened to see Gil happy and capable of now dealing with his wife much better.
I believe that within Christian denominations – as in the Jewish faith quoted in the article – there is room for more compassion and understanding as to the safe and life-affirming decisions that a well spouse like Gil may make about his own need to continue with life, even as his wife’s life continues on a difficult and challenging trajectory. The truth is she is not the same person, she does not even recognize him. It is very difficult for him. I applaud his new love, while also applaud his deep commitment to his wife. Life is complicated. I have compassion.
Thanks for reading this. – MB
I felt great when I received this email….
Thank you, MaryBeth
I greatly appreciate your letter and your compassion.
I do agree with you, personally. In the article, I was asked the stance
of the UMC on this matter.
I reported what the UMC states regarding marriage. Although I may
differ with the official church position on some matters (including its
views on homosexuality), as a staff member of an agency of the church, I
am obligated to share what I believe the position of the UMC is. And as
such, in the interview, that is what was reported.
I am hopeful that the UM Committee on Older Adult Ministries will
address this issue and bring some form of legislation/resolution to the
next General Conference.
In the meantime, please know that I, too, am sympathetic and
compassionate; but, sometimes, official church policy does not always
reflect our sense of compassion.
Again, please know that I appreciate your letter very much, and I, too,
wrestle with these and other issues that impact the spiritual well-being
of older adults.
If I can be of further help, please let me know.
Grace and peace,