I met John Suchet today.
He's an amazing man.
His wife, Bonnie, has Alzheimer's Disease (dementia) and he came into work to talk to us about her journey - their journey.
Several things that he said really spoke to me. The guilt. The despair. The heartbreak. The grief.
And then it struck me ...
I am grieving for my husband, but Cliff is dead. And because of that hard fact, I receive empathy, sympathy, some understanding from those untouched by the flames of grief.
John Suchet doesn't really. Bonnie is still alive, although, in his own words, "the Bonnie I know is gone." So he grieves for her now. Even though she lives. Which means that he doesn't have the support network afforded to me.
Yet he tirelessly provides his voice for the cause ... to fund more Admiral Nurses in the UK. Because they help the carer as well as the patient.
"This is Bonnie's Legacy" were his closing words, whilst visibly struggling to maintain his composure. I felt such empathy and respect for him.
I certainly wasn't capable of giving him comfort, but I did run around the building, making people put donations in an envelope for Admiral Nurses ... a fair bit of money actually.
And it occurred to me that he clearly loves his wife as much as Cliff loves me. Because he explained how he goes into her world rather than dragging her outside her world into his own, because it would be too much for her ... too bewildering and incomprehensible.
He protects her.
To his own cost.
I was so lucky. I had a husband like that.
When I battled my own demons many years ago, Cliff bore the brunt of these for me. He let me stay in my own safe little bubble, never pushing me too far, and when I took tiny steps, he walked them with me ... he built me up again. He healed me, literally.
I realized that if Cliff hadn't died, and in ten years, if I'd been afflicted by this dreadfully cruel disease, that Cliff would have reacted the same way. He'd have borne the brunt again. He'd have let me be in my little world.
(As it was, I lived in la-la land, even when times were great. People used to say to me, "I want to live in YOUR head.")
I wish John Suchet had the same luxury. I wish that he'd be rewarded with Bonnie being healed.
He's another rare example of a dying breed. A man.