Monday, June 20, 2011

One lucky man!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be married to a physician? Or, more specifically, to a palliative care physician? Okay, so probably not.
For a moment just try and imagine what it would be like to live with someone who deals with end of life and/or death just about every single day.
"Depressing" might be what you first imagine.
"Weird goth-type person" is what you also might imagine.
I like to think I am neither of those.
I am actually quite certain I am not goth. Although, I am pale...
But I digress.
In general, I would say that the palliative care providers that I know are a generally happy lot. Most seem to have a special sort of joie de vive (yes, I'm busting some french here, tres chic) that may come from seeing daily how fragile and short life is, and that we must enjoy it every chance we have; or maybe its because of this outlook on life that palliative care was an attractive field. Which was the chicken and which the egg, I don't feel qualified to say.  So, overall, I don't think living with me is very depressing. For the most part.
Until, while sitting on our front porch, enjoying a late afternoon cocktail while our children nap, I say to you, "So, let's say you were in a horrible wreck and I had to make decisions about what kind of treatment to pursue or not pursue. What are your feelings about what you want form life?"

And the light hearted afternoon comes to a screeching halt.

Why do I feel compelled to break out this line of questioning on a lovely Saturday afternoon, on Father's Day weekend nonetheless? Maybe because over this past year I have seen far too many young people with young families, young spouses experience a tragedy. Either a freak accident or a horrific illness or even if something they brought upon themselves - young people not far in age or life circumstances from myself who ended up hanging by a thread, and with that thread rapidly fraying. I have seen how quickly life can go from perfect to nightmarish. Husbands and wives now making decisions with immense consequences. Left scrambling to figure out what their partner would want.
Honestly, before Saturday, I thought I had a good sense of what my husband would want. Of what kind of quality of life he would find acceptable and what kind he would find intolerable. Of what his values are and what he finds to be worth living for.
Thank goodness we had our talk, though.
While I don't feel compelled to share the details or outcome of this conversation, what I will say is that I am so happy that we had the chance to share our feelings and wishes with each other. Not only do I feel like I would be able to do right by him if her were seriously ill or injured, but I feel like I have a whole new understanding of him and, frankly,  new depth of love for him that I didn't know was possible.
So, hard as it may be, and depressing as it may sound to do, if you are in a relationship and haven't had "the talk," I'd encourage you to do so. Yes, it is so sad to even try and imagine my husband incapacitated and me having to speak for him - but, by having this talk with each other I can truly say that we have enhanced our life together.
And, at the end of the day, that's what matters most.