Muriel's Blessing

Despite the toll of his wife's Alzheimer's, a husband marvels at the mystery of love.

In "Living by Vows" (Oct. 1990) Robertson McQuilkin told Christianity Today readers about life with his wife, Muriel, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Because his wife needed full-time care, he had decided to step down as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary (now Columbia International University) in South Carolina and give back to her some of the nurturing care she had provided him for so many years. Over the past five years, Muriel's condition has continued to deteriorate—and Robertson has gained even more insights into the mysteries of love and marriage.

Seventeen summers ago, Muriel and I began our journey into the twilight. It's midnight now, at least for her, and sometimes I wonder when dawn will break. Even the dread Alzheimer's disease isn't supposed to attack so early and torment so long. Yet, in her silent world, Muriel is so content, so lovable. If Jesus took her home, how I would miss her gentle, sweet presence. Yes, there are times when I get irritated, but not often. It doesn't make sense to get angry. And besides, perhaps the Lord has been answering the prayer of my youth to mellow my spirit.

Once, though, I completely lost it. In the days when Muriel could still stand and walk and we had not resorted to diapers, sometimes there were "accidents." I was on my knees beside her, trying to clean up the mess as she stood, confused, by the toilet. It would have been easier if she weren't so insistent on helping. I got more and more frustrated. Suddenly, to make her stand still, I slapped her calf—as if that would do any good. It wasn't a hard slap, but she was startled. I was, too. Never in our 44 years of marriage had I ever so much as touched her in anger or in rebuke of any kind. Never; wasn't ...

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