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When a Man Loves a Woman

February 14th, 2013 | Posted by Steve Sanchez in Salt | Special Days

I refuse to see the critically acclaimed film “Amour,” despite the fact that it is nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Foreign Film, Screenplay, Director and Actress. 

It’s a love story between a long-married couple. The wife has a stroke, becomes debilitated, and her husband must care for her.

Sounds simple and touching, right?

The reason why I won’t see it is due to this brief plot summary [Spoiler Warning] from PluggedInOnline.com:

As Anne’s condition deteriorates, Georges struggles to feed her. When she stubbornly refuses to drink and spits her water back at him, Georges gets angry and slaps her face (much to his own shame). As things grow progressively worse, Anne begins repeatedly crying out in pain.

Georges finally can’t take Anne’s lack of capacity, her anguish, her pain any longer. He ends her life by placing a pillow over her face. She jerks and convulses for a time. Then lies still.

The husband “loves” his wife so much that when the going gets tough, he kills her, setting himself up as God. He takes life that only God has the right to take.

His mercy is murder.

Contrast that fictional story with the true love story of Robertson McQuilkin.

His wife, Muriel, developed Alzheimer’s disease in her 50s. As her health deteriorated, he decided to step down from his prestigious job as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary in South Carolina, to care for her. Here’s an excerpt from his testimony about caring for his beloved wife:

I never think about “what if.” I don’t think “what if” is in God’s vocabulary. So I don’t even think about what I might be doing instead of changing her diaper or what I might be doing instead of spending two hours feeding her. It’s the grace of God, I’m sure.

An interviewer asked, “But do you ever think about what you may have given up to care for her?” McQuilkin responded,

I don’t feel like I’ve given anything up. Our life is not the way we plot it or plan it…. All along I’ve just accepted whatever assignment the Lord gave me. This was his assignment. I know I’m not supposed to have that kind of reaction, but you asked me, and I have to be honest. I never went to a support group. I had enough of my own burdens without taking on everybody else’s. Sometimes I have accepted an invitation to speak at one of these. A lot of angry people. They’re angry at God for letting this happen—“Why me?” They’re angry at the one they care for, and then they feel guilty about it because they can’t explain why they’re angry at them…. I say, in acceptance there’s peace.

Valentine’s Day was always special in our house because that was the day in 1948 Muriel accepted my marriage proposal. On the eve of Valentine’s day in 1995 I read a statement by some specialist that Alzheimer’s is the most cruel disease of all, but that the victim is actually the caregiver. I wondered why I never felt like a victim. That night I entered in my journal: “The reason I don’t feel like a victim is – I’m not!” When others urged me to call it quits, I responded, “Do you realise how lonely I would be without her?”

After I bathed Muriel on her bed that Valentine’s eve and kissed her good night (she still enjoys two things: good food and kissing!), I whispered a prayer over her: “Dear Jesus, you love sweet Muriel more than I, so please keep my beloved through the night; may she hear the angel choirs.” The next morning I was peddling on my exercycle at the foot of her bed and reminiscing about some of our happy lovers’ days long gone while Muriel slowly emerged from sleep. Finally, she popped awake and, as she often does, smiled at me. Then, for the first time in months she spoke, calling out to me in a voice clear as a crystal chime, “Love…love…love.” I jumped from my cycle and ran to embrace her. “Honey, you really do love me, don’t you?” Holding me with her eyes and patting my back, she responded with the only words she could find to say yes: “I’m nice,” she said. Those may prove to be the last words she ever spoke.

Which story do you think demonstrates true amour on this Valentine’s Day?

*****

Sources:
PluggedInOnline Randy Alcorn’s “Eternal Perspective Ministries,
Good News Archives.Photos: Wikipedia, Good News Archives.

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35 Responses

  • Garrett says:

    I think you’re misinterpreting a bit. The film isn’t necessarily approving of his actions. It’s a tragic story of a man in a painful scenario where he has to watch the person he loves suffer every day. His actions raise questions about the ethical nature of euthanasia and consent. I wouldn’t call his actions “correct” right from the hip.

    Not ever movie has a “good” protagonist, Steve.

    • I appreciate your viewpoint, but my article is a study in contrasts.

      Amour sounds depressingly cynical regardless.

      • Nohm says:

        Hi Steve,

        You wrote: “Amour sounds depressingly cynical regardless.

        Just like I wrote to Richard the other day, you and I might not agree on much, but it appears that we agree on this. :-)

      • Amen!

        That’s the point of these “Salt” posts. We may find ourselves agreeing every now and again as I broaden this blog beyond evangelism.

      • vintango2k says:

        End of life care is a tough subject, Radio lab had a show on end of life care on their show the other day. They discussed surveys that doctors have taken about resuscitation, CPR, life support machines, and the doctors overwhelming replied that they didn’t want all that stuff, just pain meds. They prefer to drift off and die rather than suffer in that sort of non-life. A few years ago my parents had to put down my dog because he was terminally ill and not recovering, only getting worse. Tell me Steve if your family has a terminally ill family member will you man up and make the call on when to end their life or will you let the doctors do that? The only difference in those two scenarios is who performs the ‘murder’ by letting the family member die in a hospital bed by removing a feeding tube or something along those lines, they’ll starve to death, suffocate, etc. by keeping them going in a vegetative state you’re denying them the death that they would ‘naturally’ have. If they can never get better and just lie there, then what sort of life is that, or worse, you’re taking away the attention of doctors and nurses who could be treating patients who will recover so that they have to watch over your family member.
        To use another analogy, if you possess a dog that gets sick, say their pancreas fails them and they waste away every day to bare bones, and every day they get worse and worse, they don’t eat, they’re in constant pain, what would you do? Would you let the animal suffer? Or would you take it to the vet and have it put down because you realize that’s the kinder thing to do?

      • Of course I would be prayerful and get much counsel before disconnecting a life support system on a loved one. But we are talking about a movie that has a husband killing his wife! As for animals, I have no compunction about taking them to a vet to end their suffering. Man is made in God’s image and completely separate from animals.

      • vintango2k says:

        “Of course I would be prayerful and get much counsel before disconnecting a life support system on a loved one.”

        Of course, as do most people when it comes to that sort of thing, which is why its important to discuss this with loved ones, if they want to be put on a respirator or life support should they fall into a state with which they most likely won’t recover.

        I haven’t seen the movie yet, I would have to watch it in order to get the context of why the husband did what he did. It sounds like a scenario similar to Lenny and George at the end of Of Mice and Men. Not sure if you’ve read it, and I don’t want to give away the ending o those who haven’t but George commits a similar act.

        “As for animals, I have no compunction about taking them to a vet to end their suffering. Man is made in God’s image and completely separate from animals.”

        If you get past the whole evolution and DNA evidence thing, yeah sure separate from animals and all that, but in the end just like you’d make the decision to put down your pet (with much emotion and reluctance) you’d eventually make the same decision with a family member… the only difference is you’d let the doctor do the actual killing… or let your loved one live in a perpetual state of agony, which option sounds better?

      • Regardless of the details, suffice it to say that I won’t smother the one I love with a pillow.

      • vintango2k says:

        No, I agree the pillow was probably done for dramatic effect, the method most people use is keeping people so high on pain medicine they drift away. Because no one wants to live in perpetual pain, its why your hell argument scares so many people.

  • Got me all choked up, brother. What a beautiful testimony of love, God’s love, between a husband and wife. Thanks for sharing this. Skip the movie.

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Wow. I totally disagree with you Steve. In fact, if my life ever reaches that point where I am constantly in pain and life sucks, I hope someone would love me enough to help me end my suffering….

    Lying in bed every day in pain is not living, That’s dying slowly and completely unnecessarily. We do the same thing for our pets. Aren’t we worth more and due the same act of love?

  • rufustfirefly says:

    It’s my choice. Not yours, not the government’s. And if your God existed, it wouldn’t be his, either. As for my partner, that would be their choice; I would try to carry out whatever they chose.

    • And you would be a murderer too.

      • vintango2k says:

        Hmmmm Steve would you consider a doctor who terminates a living person’s life support a murderer? Would you be in favor of legislation that would arrest doctors for this?

      • There’s more to it than that. I would certainly object and call it murder if someone assisted in a suicide.

      • Mark Hunter says:

        You can call it what ever you wanted to call it. Doesn’t make it murder in any way shape or form to help someone end their own life at the time of their choosing.

      • vintango2k says:

        “There’s more to it than that. I would certainly object and call it murder if someone assisted in a suicide.”

        Wow… coming from a die hard Living Waters , “Ever told a lie” supporter, that’s more nuance than we’re accustomed to hearing from you Steve. I want a black or white from you Steve, don’t go wishy-washy lib on us, a person is alive on life support but will never recover, 0% chance, the family wants to take their loved one off of life support, and the doctor pulls the plug. Should we arrest that doctor for murder?

      • “There’s more to it than that. I would certainly object and call it murder if someone assisted in a suicide.” There are many areas of gray in Christianity.

      • rey says:

        “You can call it what ever you wanted to call it. Doesn’t make it murder in any way shape or form to help someone end their own life at the time of their choosing.” (Mark Hunter)

        Let me sidestep the moral issue a bit and just look at it strictly from a matter of law. The wife says “Oh hubby please smother me with a pillow.” Hubby says “Die you $$$$$$” and smothers her. Ok, now in a court of law, how does he prove she told him to? Trying to allow assisted suicide opens up too many legal problems to be viable, even if you could ignore the moral issue.

  • Bike Bubba says:

    I would have to suggest that the difference in how the old are treated has a lot to do with saving faith, or lack of it. When my mother lay dying from colon cancer three years ago, I had the privilege of being with her the last three days of her life along with other members of my family. We used the swab with a bit of water to “wet her whistle,” gave her what encouragement we could from the Scriptures, watched the morphine supply to make sure it didn’t run out, and generally sat by her side holding her hand so she would know that someone was there caring for her.

    After the funeral, my wife was told that people could tell who had faith by where we were in that hospital room and what we were doing. It makes a difference when the Gospel tells you that you are singing “Happy Trails” and not “good bye forever.”

  • Steve L. says:

    Mark wrote:
    “if my life ever reaches that point where I am constantly in pain and life sucks, I hope someone would love me enough to help me end my suffering – Lying in bed every day in pain is not living”

    Please tell me Mark, how would you know? I submit you can’t make that statement cause you haven’t been there! (per your above statement)
    I’m curious as to your age, too!

    Just for the record, I’m 67 and meet all the criteria that you wrote about except… wanting to end it alone or with the help of someone who *says* they love you!
    The Christian has a zest for life and the desire to Please and Honor his/her God in the good times as well as the bad! Only the believer is able to make such a statement!

    Your turn-

    • Steve L.: If you are able to elaborate for our atheist friends, it may give them a clearer perspective. I know your story, perhaps you can tell it in a paragraph to enlighten them a little.

    • Mark Hunter says:

      I don’t need to “go there” to know that I don’t want to live like that having to wear diapers, be fed through tubes, never leaving a bed.

      The christian doesn’t have a zest for life, they have an absolute fear of death.

      • Steve L. says:

        Mark:
        Your reply doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s sad you’re unable to have reasonable dialogue with me and others here concerning the matters of life. Just think, we both might learn something; but I don’t believe you’d admit it even if you did!
        I may still fulfill Steve’s request and write a paragraph or two concerning my condition.

      • Mark Hunter says:

        Steve L.:

        ” It’s sad you’re unable to have reasonable dialogue with me and others here concerning the matters of life.”

        Absolutely untrue. I am just not willing (nor should I nor anyone else) respond to arguments based on “You have to have faith” or “My God doesn’t like that” or baseless arguments based on threats or rewards of some “afterlife”.

      • Steve L. says:

        WHERE DID I SAY THAT?

    • rufustfirefly says:

      And that is your choice. If you want to continue your existence and be cared for, I support that. My choice is that I would not want to continue my existence like that and be constantly cared for. That’s my choice.

  • Maddie says:

    Having worked in an Alzheimer’s unit for 2 years with residents suffering from Parkinsons, Lou Gehrig’s and more, I was extremely blessed to read the story of Muriel. I have many similar stories. People always ask if working with those afflicted by these tragic diseases was depressing for me. No. It was, in fact, incredibly encouraging, because I saw firsthand how deep an impact unconditional love and compassion could make on a person, no matter how sick. Yes, I have been hit, screamed at, feces thrown at me, and cussed out. But this is the disease acting out. With each of those residents, I cherish the times when the fog clears momentarily and we have a sort of “Muriel Moment.” Maybe it was just a teary smile, or a gentle pat on my hand, or, in case of one beloved resident, humming “Amazing Grace.” Whether or not outsiders deem these moments enough to “make it worth it,” having worked with them day in and day out, I know my residents were thankful to be alive, thankful that they were daily experiencing the love and compassion of Jesus Christ, and thankful that I did not shove a pillow over their face.

    For those that think we treat animals better than humans because we put them out of their misery when they get sick, I would ask, what have you done, other than advocate their murder, to improve the quality of life of the sick and elderly? I am hesitant to share this publicly because I know people will think I’m naive to say this, but upon my experience in this field, I have seen firsthand that there is more emotional and spiritual neglect occurring in this demographic than physical neglect.

    Pastor Steve, after two years of changing adult diapers, bathing bruised and withered bodies, feeding purees to toothless mouths, cleaning skin tears and wounds, and holding and kissing the frail hands of those transitioning to death, I STILL believe that murder is not the answer. These men and women are created in the image of God and therefore deserve all the hard work, sacrifice, and unrelenting patience I can muster. Is this not what Jesus did and continues to do for me? To act any differently is antithetical to the very gospel that my life is built around.

  • Richard Chavarria says:

    Thank you for posting this very inspiring love story. This man is a man’s man. What a love this man has for his wife!

  • Richard Chavarria says:

    Pastor Steve, did you preach a message about a doctor who had a patient die screaming on the operating table? As I recall the doctor came to a final realization after his witnessing this event.

  • rey says:

    Another movie made by the liberals who supposedly care so much about violence against women.



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