Music seems to crack open my mind and heart in ways that most anything else cannot.  It is a good thing when it happens.  Needless to say for those who have read this blog, my mode of operation for handling stressful situations is to think my way through them.  I put words together in my mind that frame whatever it is in an intellectual structure that makes it seem more manageable to me. Music seems to dismantle my neatly formed defensive structures and feeling overcomes thinking for a time.

Tonight I listened to music for about an hour and a half, a couple of CD’s.  One was done by a composer named Marty Haugen.  He writes liturgical music. Much of what he writes has a simplicity and a melodic style that is quite disarming.  In my last couple of decades in the ministry, Marty Haugen’s music often found its way into worship services.  The other CD was one in the Celtic Woman series.  My defenses are of absolutely no use in the face of the crystal clear sweetness of those lovely voices.

In her comment on last night’s post, Sharon touched on the one thing that puts into perspective all that we struggle with as full time Caregivers of our spouses.  The time we have with our spouses is of great value against the backdrop of what is coming.  There is no predicting the future.  I may die before Mary Ann.  For most of us in this stage of caregiving, the likelihood is that we will outlive our chronically Ill spouses.

The music tonight cracked open my heart and mind, and that likelihood surfaced.

I spent almost forty years in the business of helping people through times of grieving someone they loved who had died.  I have done more funerals than I can count.  I have buried people of all ages and circumstances from those who died in the womb to those who lived to within days of a hundred years old.  I have buried people who died accidental deaths and people who suffered a violent death at the hands of a perpetrator.  I have buried people who battled long and hard some form of Cancer before they died.  I have buried one of my best friends.  I preached at the funerals of two of Mary Ann’s brothers who died of Cancer, each at the age of fifty-one.  I preached at the Memorial Service for Mary Ann’s Mother.  I preached at my own Mother’s funeral. I know how to do a funeral and how to counsel people in preparation for the funeral and how to minister to them as they grieve afterward.

Tonight, broken open by the music, my thoughts and feelings went to a place of great pain. Just for a moment, I imagined myself sitting in that front pew feeling the deep sadness there.  Then, I suppose because I did it for my Mother-in-Law and my Mom, I pictured myself doing a Memorial Service in Northern Illinois where we grew up.  Many in the family there would not be able to travel to Kansas.  Mary Ann’s very best friends of more than fifty-five years are there, her Sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces who love her very much, my brothers and sisters and their families, are all there or close enough to get there.  I wondered if I could do the service in a way that would center on Mary Ann’s life and not my grief.  Who else would or could do it?  We have been gone from there for almost fifty years.

For those of you who know me personally, please do not be concerned that I am in some sort of deep emotional struggle.  It was simply a time of encountering a potential future reality.  It is a good thing to be able to go there, grieve, and come back from there.  What I encountered there was painful beyond description.  Yes, I have whined about the struggles of taking care of Mary Ann, the frustrations.  I have shared that I get irritated at her and get grumpy sometimes.  I would not give up a moment of it.  I want it to go on for years to come.  We have been married forty-three and a half years.  I plan on at least celebrating fifty years of marriage with her.

Those of us who are caring full time for a spouse with a chronic disease, to be able to function effectively day after day, have to distance ourselves from some of the harsh realities.  On occasion we also need to catch a glimpse of those realities, so that we can gain perspective on the value of the time we have with the one we love. Tonight I caught that glimpse.  I am celebrating the time we have together.

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