W hen I was young and dumb, I thought society was divided between the regular people and the suffering people. I, of course, belonged to the former category. I was a good, popular student, I came from a good family, I got married young, I had a great husband, I had four adorable children.

And then my husband, Yehoshua, was diagnosed with a rare, untreatable degenerative disease. He had been complaining of some strange aches and pains, and a visit to the doctor, followed by a blood test, followed by an MRI, revealed that he was very, very ill.

Suddenly, we crossed over into the suffering side of society. We lived in Eretz Yisrael, and the doctors there told us there was nothing they could do for Yehoshua. We flew to the US for a second opinion, but again, the doctors told us there was nothing they could do. “Just keep him comfortable,” they said.

For the next two years, I watched Yehoshua deteriorate. The medication he was given for the pain made him lose his appetite, so he couldn’t eat. He didn’t eat, so he didn’t have energy. He didn’t have energy, so he couldn’t do anything. Our apartment became his hospital, and I became his caregiver.

Yehoshua’s illness precluded any real relationship, and although he was grateful to me for all that I did for him, there was little he could do to reciprocate. Even when I was not with him, the pressure of knowing that he needed me weighed heavily on me. With no parents around — my parents lived in the States, my in-laws in a different city in Eretz Yisrael — I had to singlehandedly juggle four young children, plus a sick husband. The only close relatives living nearby were my younger sister and brother-in-law.

My daily trip to the grocery became my lifeline. It was the one time of the day that I left the house by myself, and it was my chance to breathe some fresh air and get out of the hospital I was living in.

When I left the house, I made sure to look good. My appearance, I felt, was the one area of life that was still under my control, and the more I was suffering, the more effort I put into looking put-together and cheerful.

A few weeks before Yehoshua passed away, a close friend met me and remarked, “It doesn’t make any sense, but the sicker your husband gets, the prettier you look.” It was true. Looking good was my coping mechanism. The last thing I wanted was to feel that people were pitying me, so I made sure to look as far from pitiful as I could.

What kept me from losing my sanity was the support of a therapist, who held my hand throughout Yehoshua’s illness. “Being a caregiver can make you lose your mind,” she kept telling me. “You must take care of yourself. Go out and have a good time, and don’t feel guilty about it.”

The hardest part of the entire ordeal was watching Yehoshua suffer as his body gradually lost function. His mobility went, then his muscle function, then, finally, his ability to breathe. I had to actively work on my emunah, which I did through reading books and telling myself over and over that there must be a purpose to all this suffering. Sometimes, I felt Hashem’s love, but sometimes, my emunah crumbled. “Hashem, how can You do this?” I would rage inwardly. (excerpted)