I’ve thought it many times since my wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis: I want to outlive my wife so I can take of her. I’ve always known exactly what I mean by this. And it’s simple.
I want to be here to care for her as long as she lives. I don’t want her to face life without me because I don’t trust anyone else to care for her as well as I will. No one else could be as good for her as I am. (Okay, all you psychologists out there ignore my savior complex).
In fact, I know I could be wrong. I can imagine a scenario in which I die before her and she marries an incredibly wealthy neurologist who specializes in MS and who has the money and medical skills required to provide for all of her needs. Yes, I can imagine that, but I don’t believe it’s very likely.
So I intend to be around for a long while.
This desire to outlive a partner with MS is common among caregiving spouses. And it’s typically based on the caregivers’ love of his or her partner. This desire manifests itself in a caregiver’s realization that he or she must take care of his or her own health. (It goes back to the oxygen mask metaphor I used in I’m an MS Caregiver).
Here’s how my desire to always be here for my wife works for me: I watch my diet, I pay attention to stress, I avoid risky behaviors, I get an annual physical. You know what I mean. I do all the things I should do to improve my odds of living long and healthy.
But living longer than her holds an implication I try ignore. It’s there in the dark, hiding in the shadows in a back corner of my mind. And it’s this: if I outlive her, I’ll be left behind without her for a period of time. I’ll be lonely. I know this is true.
Perhaps it’s a protective thing my mind does, but I simply can’t imagine life without her. I find it difficult to imagine life without her because she’s so present for me now. And believe me, living in the joy of the present is a wonderful thing!