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A Prayer for Compassion

She cared for her loving husband… and as his health declined she found God’s help to endure.


A soft answer turneth away wrath…—Proverbs 15:1

My late husband Roland and I were married on the second day of the month, so every second of the month, he placed a love poem he’d written for me on my breakfast plate. He made sure that nothing else was ever scheduled on the second. Then, to conclude our day, he’d take me out to dinner.

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But after 180 poems and 15 years together, he contracted Parkinson’s. Yet even as his health declined, he remained a gentleman. And a gentle man.

That is, he did until one day when—in front of visitors, no less—he suddenly shouted, “You’re taking care of me just to show off how good you are! Well, you’re not!”

I was embarrassed, shocked, devastated.

I immediately phoned a counselor whom his doctor had recommended “just in case.” She gently explained that when someone who has spent a lifetime in his or her own control no longer has control, that person often turns on someone close to him or her—usually the caregiver. Her advice? “Don’t argue or try to reason. Just answer gently, confirming your love again and again.” What relief I felt! I took her advice, and within hours Roland was his usual self.

After his death, I was asked to speak to a group of caregivers and I told this story. It was not easy to tell, but I sensed it was necessary. One in the group told me afterward, “I gave up a good part of my life to take care of my aunt, and near the end she treated me like dirt. I’ve carried anger about her for the past fifteen years. Now, finally, I think I can forgive her because I know why.”

Oh, Lord, help me show compassion to those who are going through circumstances that are beyond their control.

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