Do You Know This Woman?


She could be someone you know, she’s not alone in this situation. But this is her story.

Taking care of her husband is an all-consuming task every day, all day, all the time. Some days she feels like she’s disappearing. But then she looks in the mirror and she’s still there; still breathing, still brushing her teeth, still putting on her eyeliner. She makes endless lists of things that need to be done, but forgets to shower sometimes. She knows he needs her. He’s knows his illness is terminal.

With every cell that dies inside of him, a little bit of her dies too. But she can still make him smile and he still has a few good jokes to make her laugh. She tried to dance for him a few weeks ago to cheer him up. It was a Saturday morning after he had come home from a hospital stay. She jiggled her hips to the dance of the seven tea towels across the kitchen, but it didn’t end well. She tripped and launched herself into a head-dive into the next room. Yes, her heart was in the right place, but then it was in the wrong place…under the dining room table. She had fallen and she couldn’t get up.

She’s been with him for 41 years. His every mood and movement is bred in the bone. His 83rd birthday was last week and they spent it in the hospital.

Her sister’s delicious chicken soup helps a lot and lulls her back into her childhood, a nice respite for a while. Her daughter’s cooking frenzy in the kitchen is a comfort of the heart. And the care and kindness offered up by friends and family is always there. She finds it hard to know how to ask for help. She’s flummoxed about the dilemma of what they can do to make this easier. It’s never going to be easy. But she finally learns that getting caregiving help at home is not about him, it’s about her.

After he’s in bed, she sits in the living room and listens to the quiet. She thinks about him singing “Old Man River” at a dinner party many years ago. Just two Halloween’s past, he donned a cowboy hat and tied a string of toast around his neck. He told everyone he was going to the party as a toasted western.

Some days she thinks she’s doing God’s work. Some days she thinks she’s failing at living up to the task. But everyday, she uses her binoculars to find the light at the end of the cancer.

He always lived large in everything he did. He taught her how to do that. And now she has to teach him how to live small and she’s not sure she can. But she tries to live small with him, so they can learn together. And everyday, a little bit more of him retreats, and every day she watches him disintegrate. There’s always more hope and more prayers, but there’s always more reality that either of them want to face.

So if you know this woman, all she needs from you is a hug. I hear she collects them and periodically leaps into the pile, to surround herself with your good wishes, while she works at recharging her batteries. We can do this, she tells herself.

This too shall pass…

See you between the lines,

Pat Skene



34 responses »

  1. You have written this so beautifully my dear sister Pat….it brought tears to my eyes.
    We all love Bob so much and it’s hard to see him deteriorate. You are doing a WONDERFUL job looking after him, you always have, and it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. That’s what family and friends are for. Xo 🤗 🤗


  2. Hi Pat. This is beautiful piece of writing. So poignant and sad but still a touch of a smile in there too. Im so very sad that you are both going thru this. There is no easy way. I know. I lived your life 15 years ago when my first husband had pancreatic cancer.You just try to keep going. If you need help with anything or just need to talk Im just upstairs😊 Maybe you should give up dancing the dance of the seven dish towels though.

    Hugs Gail >


  3. You are the brightest star I look up to! Can you hear me whispering every night to that star “You are doing a terrific job with our Bob Skene, loving him through all the bad things. I send you Divine Light, Love and Prayers. I love you Pat…I am here for you both! We all are!” 💜💛💚💙❤️


  4. I want to say great job on this piece, but as it’s not fiction that hardly seems like the right statement. I bet a lot of people can relate and will find comfort in knowing they aren’t alone in this. Hugs …one for now & a few for the pile.


  5. Such a beautiful piece of writing, Pat, and so heartfelt. In two short vignettes—the dance of the tea-towels and the toasted western—you tell us so much about who you are, about who Bob is, and about the love and joy you share. You have been blessed to have each other…..and you will have each other forever.


  6. Right Time For A Hug
    This Very moment, I am Thinking,
    Is the Right a Time a For A Hug.
    So Here Is One From Me,
    To Warm your Li’l Self
    And Fill a Your Heart With Love.

    I may be a stranger but I have nursed my sick Husband too!
    Take Care,


  7. This is something I’ve seen so often in my volunteer work with hospice, and it is so beautifully written, I have taken the liberty of sharing it with several of my friends who are on the staff of Big Bend Hospice.
    Craig Reeder (I am Adrian’s singing partner – I got the piece on her FB page)


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