Going the Distance: A Little Book of Love

A special friend of mine wrote a book – a powerful, moving, uplifting book that describes her journey as a caregiver to her husband with Lewy Body Dementia.

Betsy Jordan is a highly decorated athlete, with scores of national and international swim records to her name. Pete was one of the bravest men this country has produced. A navy seal. In her book, Going the Distance, Betsy describes their life together as Pete is first afflicted, and finally overcome by a ruthlessly progressive dementia.

The book is less about Lewy Body Dementia than it is about the nature of love and loss. It captures, in beautiful understatement, the very essence of life itself. In her every word, it is clear how love fueled each beautiful step of their journey, especially the tough marathon that became their final legacy.

As his condition deteriorated, impacting his ability to relate fully to those around him, Betsy declared: “If Pete couldn’t maintain his full command of love, I would double or triple the love I had for him. This love would serve us both.” An inspiring challenge for all of us – even those without caregiving responsibility. In her toughest hours, she safeguarded the flames of love in her heart, with tangible benefit to Pete.

Betsy uses her experience as a long-distance swimmer as an analogy for the caregiver’s marathon. She applied her own athletic guidelines to her task. In the book, which includes much practical advice, she suggests that anybody in a similar position needs to first “get into the water and make a commitment”. During protracted caregiving, “pacing” becomes important, just as in endurance swimming. And finally, she advocates for “infinite patience and perseverance”.

Betsy offers profound advice to all caregivers. “No matter how great the needs of your loved one, you must also take even better care of yourself.” Thank you Betsy, for directing my own attention to the many brave spouses, parents, children, siblings and friends who care for their loved ones. I will honor Pete’s journey by focusing my own professional insights and knowledge in service of this special group.

The couple’s true courage is captured in a little vignette involving one of Pete’s t-shirts bearing the motto of the warrior brotherhood that he had proudly served. Ironically, this Navy Seal wife was ultimately asked to live and love to the same exacting standard: “The only easy day was yesterday.”

I commend Going the Distance to anybody that has chosen to care for a loved one with a long-term medical condition. More than this, I commend this moving story to anyone that lives and loves. In adversity, life’s richest veins are exposed. Betsy has combined her deep human insight with her simple, succinct writing style to reveal an inspiring treasure store for us all.

Betsy’s journey with her gentle, ailing husband brought tears of love, empathy and joy to my eyes repeatedly. Her last swim with Pete will remain etched in my mind, a stark reminder to each of us to embrace the now, and to devote ourselves without reserve to the special people that fill our lives.

Have fun,

Roddy

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