Elizabeth Scalia dissects a trend that is now being normalized, thanks to American television:
Fans of “reality TV,” willing to be entertained by stories of exhibitionists behaving badly (and willingly) for a camera, some cash, and the most vulgar sort of celebrity notice, are being promised a new diversion, this time in the form of one husband’s decision to openly bring his mistress into his marriage because his wife suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease:
B. Smith, 69, was a millionaire, a top model, a restaurateur, and a TV personality—many referred to her as the Black Martha Stewart. But her life took a turn for the worse 10 years ago, when she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, her husband of 27 years, Dan Gasby, a former TV executive, has been caring for her. Last year, [Gasby, age 64] started openly carrying on a relationship with a white woman, 53-year-old Alex Lerner.
Lerner has moved into the home shared by Gasby and his wife, as B. Smith continues to be wracked by the disease.
This “reality” circumstance shouldn’t surprise us; the husband’s attitude seems to be the next logical point of devolution in our cultural understanding about the self-sacrificial nature of love and marriage.
This husband’s decision to bring his mistress into his marriage is not unprecedented. After journalist Jan Chorlton developed the same disease, her husband, CBS reporter Barry Petersen, revealed that he had taken a mistress while providing for his mentally-absent wife.
It leaves me wondering if these people, all unintentionally, actually are hurting all of us—the whole society—by further breaking down our understanding of what life asks of us and what we are meant to be to each other. Was it not precisely for such situations that marriage vows were designed? “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, together or apart.” Love, which is limitless, is supposed to be strong enough—even if we do not think we are—to survive these challenges and even grow through them.
A neighbor of mine used to work as a therapist for Alzheimer’s patients, both high-functioning and low, and I would occasionally volunteer to help. One day she pointed out a man in his mid-sixties who was a daily visitor to his wife. “He is a saint. Every day he brings his lunch and eats with her. She doesn’t recognize him, so every day she is meeting a new friend. When we told him he needn’t come so often he said, ‘But she is my bride; if I did not see her, I would miss her.’”
The man’s wife had changed, but if she was no longer capable of seeing her groom, he still beheld and adored his bride.
Their marriage was a microcosmic reflection of the macro-love of God for his people and the love of Christ for his Church. Love without limit, love without fear, love without desertion; love in joy and in pain, love in the shallows and the depths, love without end.