Years ago they married. She was young, pretty and delicate; he was older, a handsome, athletic, charismatic man. They started a family, bought a house, worked, played, did the things people do. Then it happened and he would never walk again, not work, not play, and not do the things people do. Now she worked, and took care of small children, and took care of the house, and took care of him. Taking care of him was hard, physical work, and exacting, personal, intimate work, and never, never ceasing work, and most often, thankless work.
He had been robbed of his vitality, his movement, his freedom, his livlihood, his pride, his independence, his roles, in his eyes, everything. He was dependent and depressed and grieving and mostly angry. There is no right way to deal with this sort of reality and these emotions, but there are many hurtful ways. He drank, and lashed out, he layed on the guilt and tore down those he loved, then he would regret it all, try harder to be the husband and father he wanted to be, then despair and fall into a deeper depression. The cycle just kept interating.
She stayed through all of it, never even stepping out of the room for the worst of it, certainly never leaving him to any one else's care. She protected her children as much as she could. She gave up her freedom, her desires, and her needs. She was scared and so lonely. She didn't have the strength to leave or to demand that he control what he could control, that he find a way to stop the abuse. But it took such incredible strength to live her life as she did.
The children grew up and their empty nest time became marked by a series of tradgedies and medical crises. His health became more fagile and his needs even greater. She was no longer physically able to provide all his care, although she would run herself into the hospital trying.
This day finds her at his bedside in the ICU, with the ventilator providing his breathing after a crisis that had almost had a very different outcome. The emergency room personel had asked a few hours earlier whether she wished extraordinary measures to be taken or not, whether he had a standing DNR order. Now that she can process it all, she breaks down, "I don't know what I would do without him, I need him, I love him so very much."