One day just before Thanksgiving my husband informed me that he was in love with another woman, just what I wanted to hear when my days and nights for more than 18 months had been in devoted service to him. And then, with a little smile on his parched lips, he identified the “other woman”.

Her name was Reva, an older, southern lady of great compassion. She was an aide for Hospice and visited every other day at first, then every day as the situation worsened.

At first my husband rejected Reva’s offer to bathe him and wash his hair. He was a stubborn man, and the fact that he needed help was yet another journey of acceptance for him. Eventually he relented. Reva bathed him with tenderness and I was certain her hands held much more than the soap and washcloth with which she cleansed his withered body. I believe she transmitted energy through her gentle touch and my husband seemed to respond to her sweet and loving spirit.

Over the days and weeks that Reva tended to his needs, and gave me a much-needed respite, my husband had fallen in love. I believe their eyes met on a level of stranger-to-stranger, then caregiver to patient, then human being to human being, both devoted to making the best out of what was happening.

Because of Reva, I was comfortable relinquishing some of the care giving to another person. Because of Reva and her humility and kindness, I was sure my loved one was being cared for with dignity and respect. Because of Reva, who on that last day took his blood pressure and looked at me with tears in her eyes, I was able to know – without words – that the end was near. And because of Reva, I was able to spend those last moments before the coma engulfed his spirit knowing the two of us – me and my husband’s “new love,” had cared for this man in an exceptional way.

This all occurred in the serene mountains of Waynesville, NC where we had moved to wait with acceptance for the inevitable. He was dying, and we knew it. Our only prayer had been for a peaceful death. As the holidays approached, we added one more request – to enjoy the holidays with our children. Thanksgiving and Christmas loomed before us with more depth and meaning than any time prior. We knew these holidays would be our last together.

And so, our prayers were answered!

We had wonderful holidays that year. My husband sat in his chair and watched his entire family as they gathered together to celebrate. He ate all the food he shouldn’t have, and enjoyed every minute of it.



Joyce Marie Sheldon

Joyce Marie Sheldon

Joyce Marie Sheldon has been a Banker, a University Administrator, and a small business owner; however, it is her role as author, inspirational speaker and caregiver advocate which has motivated her to move in a new direction. After the death of her husband in 2001, her first book, From Fear to Faith, A Caregiver’s Journey, received the acclaimed endorsement of Hospice International and that of Christiane Northrup, MD, author and women’s health advocate who stated, “I read ... I wept … and was helped. Bless you!” Since that time, she has authored 4 other books, Seekers and Dreamers, Living Sanctuariously, Mia and Mr. Red Feather and Little Kind Heart, all inspirational guides to living a life of simplicity and peace no matter what the circumstances. She has created Bridges to Understanding, A Caregiver’s Conference which provides inspiration to those who work with the sick, the elderly and the dying. This conference emphasizes the power of communication and compassion, provides guidelines to maintaining peace during times of trial, and tools for successful care giving. Joy travels the country to present keynote speeches and to facilitate workshops for hospice and home care staff as well as family caregivers. Most recently, Joy developed a new conference titled, Growing in Broken Places, which addresses the subject of growing through loss – experiencing growth and embracing change. She has also dedicated time to present workshops for young mothers, and is devoted to the issue of character development in our young children. She has been the guest speaker at club events and medical meetings, has had numerous radio interviews and has presented her workshops, Making Good Decisions, to the young people of the Town of Davidson, NC. and at several out-of-state locations. Joyce, known affectionately as “Joy” to her friends, is the mother of 7 children. Having been a caregiver herself, she is knowledgeable and compassionate of their needs. Her sensitivity and insight, as well as her gentle communication style, have made her a unique addition to panels and conferences. Joy has been a weekly contributor to and many other online publications. Her writings have been published in dozens of individual and state publications as guides to professional and personal development.

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