November 6, 2010 – Courage

Josh concert

Written Nov 6, 2010 5:40pm

About 4 weeks ago, Bob Ritter contacted me to let me know that Josh would be playing in Spokane on November 5th, and wondered if we were thinking about attending. Well, yes, thought about it, and then decided that it just wasn’t practical and I also did not want to take seats from others for, what was likely to be, a sold out show…and then not be able to make it. Bob informed us that Josh said we were absolutely not to buy tickets, he would assure us sit down seats in a standing room venue…..just come. So….I asked Jim, and told him I would make it happen, his only responsibility was to live that long.

4 weeks ago, Jim was still riding his bike. He was still hiking. He was still responding to email. Since then he has lost the ability to operate the DVD player. He cannot talk on the phone. His right sided paralysis advanced rapidly, he developed a DVT and started aspirating fluids. He started sleeping 18 hours a day and was in bed every night by 9. He forgot how to shave, how to assemble a sandwich, how to set up his toothbrush. He had no idea what day it was, no memory of who might be coming over. But…there were 2 things lodged firmly in long term memory. The massage therapist comes on Mondays and Fridays at 11, and we were going to that Josh Ritter concert.

As much as we were living on a day by day, sometimes hour by hour, status…..I had to figure this out. There were times I wished he would forget about it. I made plans, reserved a hotel room, lined up people to go with us to help. I began helping with showers, I changed his mid day nap to the living room, I thickened his liquids. I finally contacted the tour manager while Jim watched a movie. There were many days in the last week, where I thought he would forget, there were days I thought he would not be alive. 3 am on Friday, Jim fell on one of his night time wakings. I helped him up, and back to bed…..then got up and did some serious self talk.

If Jim was alive. If Jim remembered. If Jim was not comatose and could still transfer. We were going. I promised…and he had kept up his end of the deal. Jim slept in that morning. Upon arriving down stairs, he stated, “It’s party day”. I made him breakfast. I helped him shower. I shaved his face. I gave him a little extra steroid, and timed the dosage so he might stay awake a little longer into the evening. I contacted Hospice to find out what to do if something happened while we were out of town. I packed thick drinks, meds, and Jim’s down coat. I readied the wheelchair. 

I did not do this alone. Pat Bageant was there in case Jim needed assistance getting to the men’s room. Marci Stephens drove us there and ran around doing errands for me the morning of. Betsy Goodman hung at the hotel with Jim and I while the other 2 met with Josh’s tour manager, Tim. Tim took a full 30 minutes out of his crazy afternoon to problem solve access issues for a wheelchair in a rock venue. 

For any that have had the privilege of attending a Josh Ritter performance, I don’t have to tell you that the show was magic. It was an honor just to be there. It was a joy to sit with Josh’s parents. We cried when he dedicated “Lantern” to us, and remembered dancing to “Kathleen” a year ago. Jim stayed awake. Jim stood up to get a hug from Josh after the show. Jim lived. 

It wasn’t practical. Pulling this whole thing off scared the crap out of me. Part of being married is following through on your promises. I’m glad we did.


I read this post a couple of nights ago. I remembered. I recalled how difficult, and how beautiful, that night was. But as I look back on that event, it is not the difficulties or joys that I contemplate. I think about Josh. He had found out that morning that his wife was having an affair. It was the beginning of the end of his marriage. I did not know it at the time. He put on a fabulous show. He seemed a little edgy backstage, but I wrote it off as just post show adrenaline let down, and let’s face it, Jim looked pretty rough.

I don’t have a lot to say that I haven’t already written about in a previous post about the differences that I perceive between death as the end of a relationship and divorce. I am intertwined now with a man whose relationship ended when the love, rather than the person, died. As we talk, I think about all the changes that I have been through in the last 3 years, and I see the changes he is still enduring, and a glimpse of where we are headed.

Josh ended his marriage. He wrote a book. He fell in love with a young widow. He continues to tour in both the US and Europe. He has a baby girl. He put out another album. He still exudes joy that is contagious anytime he hits the stage, or in face to face encounters. So much change in 3 short years. Knowing when to drop the past and look forward to the future takes guts. Keeping my promises to Jim up until the end was its own kind of bravery. Courage comes in many forms.


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One Response to November 6, 2010 – Courage

  1. Jean says:

    What a beautiful, beautiful post! We loving caregivers went through so much to make the ending of our spouses’ lives have meaning and quality for as long as possible. We have every right to be proud of keeping our promises, our vows. In a crazy kind of way the strength we found in ourselves through caregiving is the same strength we use, now, to move forward. And bless the friends who acted in supporting roles to do what they could to support you and your husband to get to that concert!

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