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In November 2016, a few days after arriving at Benefis Peace Hospice in Great Falls, Montana, my wonderful husband, Doug, became confused and agitated.  He’d been living with penile cancer for thirteen months and was near the end of a very painful journey, yet until that evening he had maintained his usual jovial demeanor.  I quickly pressed the call button and then reassured him until the nurse arrived, thankful to be among competent and loving caregivers at such a scary moment.  

After helping Doug settle, the nurse rubbed medicine onto Doug’s skin to help him relax.  He quietly watched her hand gliding across his forearm and then, with hopeful curiosity in his voice, asked, “Can you put some self-love in there?”  The nurse and I looked at each other, wondering if we’d heard what we thought we’d heard, and then he asked again.

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Ever since he’d lost his penis to cancer, Doug and I had wondered and talked about self-love very often.  Doug worried about whether he was enough - for me, for his daughters, for the world - and I wondered what it would take for both of us to embrace our new reality. We believed that self-love was essential, and we helped each other remember that self-love was an option on those days when despair or self-loathing seemed the only appropriate response to our circumstances.  I was amazed and delighted that self-love was on Doug’s mind, even as his body declined.

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Ever since that day in hospice, I’ve repeated Doug’s question as often as possible:  What should I make for breakfast today?...can you put some self-love in there?  My performance evaluation’s due…can you put some self-love in there?  I need to shop for new clothes…can you put some self-love in there?  That simple question changes my perspective on absolutely everything! 

As much as I wish we could, we can’t rub self-love into ourselves like the medicine that was rubbed onto Doug’s arm.  But we can be kinder to ourselves when we look in the mirror, we can nurture ourselves with naps, and laughter, and tears.  In honor of the man who inspired the question, I ask you now, Can you put some self-love in your life today?  Doug and I will be cheering you on when you do.

With sincere affection,
Annie

 


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