To Those Who Call Me My Wife’s ‘Caretaker’

My wife has an incurable rare disease with no real treatment and aside from a stem-cell transplant, no real outlook for cure. She will probably live with this disease her entire life. This disease has robbed her of a promising writing career and the ability to function without pain on a daily basis. Yes, she stays home most of the time. Yes, I am the person who cares for her. But don’t call me a caretaker.

My wife was ill when I met her 18 years ago. She made no secret of her illness, even though at the time, we did not know what it was. I fell madly in love with her and asked her to marry me only six months after we started dating.

It was she who hesitated.

She was concerned she would be a “burden” on me that I shouldn’t have to bear.

She was concerned I wouldn’t have a full life with a sick spouse.

She was worried I would be unhappy.

She didn’t want me to be a “caretaker” for her.

I told her with absolute love and certainty I did not and would not feel that way, and the only ruination of my life would be caused by her refusal to spend her life with me. She is an extraordinary woman, and I am the luckiest man alive. Fortunately, I won the argument.

Now, to the point: I am not my wife’s caretaker or caregiver, as so many people want to call the family and loved ones of people who are chronically ill. I am a husband. I love my wife. Part of loving someone is taking care of them “in sickness and in health,” as the vow goes. As a man of faith, it is my sacred duty to care for my wife and my family. I love my wife, and part of that love is doing whatever is necessary to ensure her well-being, health and comfort. I feel no “cost” to myself. Is it difficult? Yes, but difficulty is part of life. I would argue the challenges of being in pain and ill all the time are far more difficult for her. I am there for her because I love her, because I want the best for her.

But, don’t call me a caretaker. Don’t call me her caregiver. Don’t tell me how lucky she is to have me. Don’t praise me with what a wonderful man I am because I love my wife. Loving her is the most natural thing I have ever experienced. I am the lucky one. I am blessed she chose me. She is not a burden to me.

What is a burden? In our experience, it’s been the doctors who don’t care, and family who have cast her off. It’s people who judge others by their contributions to society, by what they “do” rather than who they are.

We care for our loved ones because we love them. We demonstrate our love for a person when we care for them, when we offer compassion, our time, and yes, our lives. Love is sacrifice willingly given and gladly offered. We are not martyrs, and I wish people would not treat us as such. We give because we love. We care because we love.

We love because it flows from us organically toward the person and people we love.

And we are loved in return.

Caring for a loved one who is sick is not a burden. It is a blessing. We are blessed with them and they with us. My wife offers me unconditional love and understanding. She cares for me as well. With all of her struggles, she still puts me first and gives me all I need.

So please, call us what we are: husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, friends. We are people who love and care for our beloveds because our lives are blessed with their love and precious selves. We care for them because we love them and they love us. We share a sacred, unbreakable contract we enter into freely and happily. And we are all the better for it.

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