A few days ago, my wife, Tina Su Cooper, and I spent an hour or so holding hands and watching a movie in our kitchen, as we do most afternoons.
We have been in love for 58 years and married for 37.
Due to multiple sclerosis, Tina (born Su Ting-ting) has been quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent, getting round-the-clock nursing at home for the past 17 years. She has weathered it heroically, appreciating the nursing care and almost never complaining.
Half a year ago, she had a stroke, reducing her damaged cognitive and communication abilities still further. After several hospitalizations over the past year, the doctors made it clear they thought she should get only minimal future care, as her prospects were grave. We disagreed, insisting on full medical care when appropriate and nursing care at home, which we did even after a period a few years ago when she was mistakenly diagnosed as being in a “vegetative state,” from which she “surprisingly” recovered.
We will give Tina the home and hospital care she can receive, not asking ourselves, “Are we there yet?” We don’t know where “there” will be.
Life includes the possibility of future pleasure. We hope that Tina finds some enjoyment, sleeping a great deal, watching television, and interacting with us for a few hours each day.
As we watched that movie together, I told her that she was our heroine, doing a very difficult thing, persevering despite the limitations, and I said I hope she was not unhappy.
I rephrased my comment into a question, “Are you sad, dearest Ting?”
I feared she would nod her head yes or remain immobile, an implied yes, but she did something she rarely does. She shook her head no.
Tina Su Cooper is not sad.
Even if her situation may make us cry, we are not sad, either.
Life is precious, and where there is life, there is hope.