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Her Bodyguard
By Daphne Simpkins 

(Page 2 of 3)

A steady stream of well-wishers greeted the couple, attempting the awkward task of offering congratulations on the recent wedding while simultaneously offering words of sincere concern. I watched our mutual friends move through the room, making their way to pay their gentle respects to this sick bride, to embrace her, respectful of that side of her weakened now by muscle loss and radiation burns.

Her bodyguard remained poised behind her, silent, eyes disciplined and deliberately opaque so that no one could read his mind and see....what?

My eyes used to hide the secret life a caregiver lives. It is one of disciplined optimism. Of ready service. Of fear and hope living side by side. Of being terribly alone while always in the company of someone who was going to die no matter what I did as his caregiver.

This caregiver had a more promising future, I thought. His wife’s prognosis was good. Whenever possible, one or the other of them said to anyone listening, “Get that mammogram. It’s life or death. We caught it early.” Her treatments were working. And they had a network of friends who supported them. Those were the facts.

But was he still afraid? Did he have job pressures as he juggled caregiving with making a living that supported him and his wife? Did he feel all alone, though as a caregiver, he was rarely alone?

The buffet dinner was finally ready and we all rose. His patient moved serenely through the crowd, a bride welcoming the guests at the reception. He followed her, nodding as others assured her that she looked great. She fixed her own plate, adding spoonfuls of this and that, and I saw him watch and take deep breaths as she took more food. ‘Good, good. Eat more,’ he thought. ‘Eat as much as you can.’

He forgot to make his own plate as he followed her. He smiled appropriately at friends who patted her or nodded some silent intention of good will toward him, but the smile never made it to his eyes. Compliments brought the bride closer to him, however. She leaned gratefully toward her husband, patted his chest and called him her hero. The look in his eyes remained the same.

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