Pat Robertson’s response to the question about marriage and Alzheimer’s is worse than the disease itself.
A few years ago, I witnessed the sad, slow decline of my grandpa.
It was particularly painful to watch because my grandpa was the life of the room. The term patriarch was created for men like him. He could hold your attention with a story he had already told you a dozen times. He loved everything in his life ferociously. Yet, at the end, he became smaller, simpler, and sad.
It was hard watching him suffer and eventually succumb to the disease that wracked his mind and body.
What made the largest impact on my life during this time of prolonged, painful descent was the way my grandpa was cared for by my grandma. With love and respect, Grandma prepared Grandpa’s meals and selected his clothes and tended to his most basic and personal needs.
It was during this time that the meaning of marriage was crystallized in my mind.
Being married only a short time by comparison, I began to understand that marriage does not exist primarily for the perks that it affords. Among many things, marriage provides companionship, offers stability, and generates comfort.
But marriage–by its definition and design–exists to provide a context for persistent self-sacrifice for the good of the other.
The marriage vows were not created primarily to promise loyalty during the for better, for richer, in health years. Those kinds of promises have all the substance of the prodigal son and his buddies during the good years. The marriage vows were made for the storms, the catastrophes, the wildernesses.
I saw my grandma love more fully, more tenderly, more completely when my grandpa was dying than I ever saw when he was well. It is not that my grandma did anything different when Grandpa was healthy. It was that she was just as loyal, just as faithful, and just as supportive when he was sick that made the difference for me. Love unrewarded is the truest love of all.
Pat Robertson’s belief that a husband can dump his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife and start again is disgusting.
I am grateful for a grandma who stood by my grandfather and said with her life:
I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life …