Monday, April 9, 2012

The Hardest Work Of All

In late March, Charles Snelling of Allentown, Pennsylvania killed his wife of 61 years, Adrienne, who had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for six years, and then himself. Last fall David Brooks published an essay by Mr. Snelling about his life and devotion to Adrienne:

It never occurred to me for a moment that it would not be my duty and my pleasure to take care of my sweetie. After all, she took care of me in every possible way she could for 55 years. The last six years have been my turn, and certainly I have had the best of the bargain. So I have dug in with the will. Adrienne likes to be with me so, everywhere I go Adrienne goes as well. We have wonderful helpers here in Allentown, at Estrellita, and in Washington. Certainly they have helped me enormously, but real care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s cannot be delegated. I did not need to be told that; I felt it in my bones.

Brooks reflects here. I was an Andover classmate of one of Mr. Snelling's daughters, Marjorie, and had the pleasure of meeting him and Adrienne. I can only imagine the agony in their close-knit family over the tragedy and all the commentary. At church I probably worry most about those such as Mr. Snelling who are providing full-time care for the chronically ill. Few responsibilities are more grueling, lonely, and emotionally and spiritually exhausting, especially, it seems, when the patient is suffering from dementia.
Give rest, O Christ, to your servants with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.

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