Heroic Care For Insane Relatives
( Originally Published 1902 )
RIDING along a country road with a gentleman, recently, he said to me " That little, low, old-fashioned farmhouse has quite a strange history." On asking what was peculiar about the place, he continued : " A brother and sister live there. He is deaf and dumb and insane; he has a huge body, but short legs, and crawls on his hands and knees like an animal. She devotes her whole attention to caring for him. For many years, another sister looked after the farm, while she cared for him, but at the death of that sister, the care of both the farm and the brother fell on her. She could have sent him to an asylum; she could have accepted offers of marriage, but she did not do so. This poor, disgusting animal who, at times, acted like a dangerous beast, was her brother, and she loved him ; and, for forty long years she has done almost nothing but wait upon him."
I said to the gentleman : " The incident you have related reminds me of another. I have a friend, a merchant in New York, whose only daughter was comely in appearance, bright in intellect, quick at her studies, and singularly proficient in her music. Her reason slipped from its throne, bringing a dark shadow over the home. For many years the mother has lived for her afflicted daughter, her whole existence has been bound up in her child's welfare. The father treats the daughter just as though she had all her mental faculties, only a little more tenderly ; he takes her riding with him through the parks, and pleasant driveways and speaks sweetly and lovingly to her, as though she had her reason. They sent her away to a private sanitarium, but being home-sick without her, and feeling that, perhaps they could do as well by her, if not better than anyone else, they brought her back home, resolving that, if it took every moment and ounce of strength, their house should be her home. Every day, through these many years, they have prayed, and looked for a return of her reason to its throne ; but she is so far along in years now, that it is not likely that their hopes will ever be realized. But the example of their parental love and heroism will be more valuable than a dozen ordinary lives.
Another incident, similar to these two, occurs to my mind. The wife of a prosperous business man in Brooklyn became suddenly insane. Although her reason was entirely gone, she was not dangerous, and he determined to make his own house a sanitarium for her. As it would require one person's time to care for her, he determined to be that person. He sold out his business ; invested his money wisely so that its income would support him, and devoted his whole life to caring for his afflicted companion. For twenty-five years he scarcely ever allowed her to get out of his sight. His love for her was so intense, that his slavery through those years was his greatest delight. She sickened and died, and he pined, like a lonely mate, without her. One morning, coming from the provision store on the corner, old and infirm, the trolley-car caught him, and wounded him so that he died. I was called to attend his funeral, when I was made conversant with the facts which I have just given you. If the man had lived to be as old as Methuselah, and had accumulated in his business the wealth of a Croesus, he could not have as much of real life as he had in the twenty-five years of devotion to his afflicted wife."
Can there be any earthly thing more beautiful than the constant, heroic love for companion, child, parent, brother, or sister? This love, however un-selfish or undying, is but a hint of the love of the Infinite Father, for His afflicted children. However great may be their moral disabilities, however deep they may have plunged into the mire of bestiality, however wild may be their spiritual insanity, He does not cast them from His heart, but loves them the more, because there is the deepest affliction and moral distemper, and the greater need of His help. The love of the sister, parents, and husband, for their afflicted loved ones, was beautiful in the comfort which was afforded the unfortunate, and in the splendid discipline of character to which they themselves were subjected; but as a curative agent, it was powerless and hopeless. But the love of God in Christ, is remedial. It lifts the crawling brute from his hands and knees into superb manhood ; it cures the spiritually insane, it brings them to their senses. In all this sin-cursed earth, there is not a raving moral maniac who is incurable, if this Love be sought.