Making Promises You Can’t Keep

Sometimes we make promises we can’t keep. We make them because they seem kinder than the alternative. We don’t want to deny people their wishes or tell someone that the thing they want is impossible.

Kimberly Williams-Paisley tackles this idea of making promises she can’t keep in this latest installment of our online book club speaking about Kimberly Williams-Paisley’s book, Where the Light Gets In. She writes about her mother’s experience with primary progressive aphasia.

First Promises

After her mother and father received the primary progressive aphasia diagnosis, they went home and got into bed. As they lay there, her father made a big promise on page 75:

“Scout,” he said eventually, “we’ll get you all the help we need so you can stay in this house. You won’t ever have to leave home.”

Of course, he was making this promise without a deep understanding of what goes into caring for someone in the end stages of primary progressive aphasia. He makes the promise without knowing other connected health concerns that may pop up along the way. In the moment, it is a wish of what he hopes will be true vs. what he can reasonably make happen.

Don’t Let This Happen

Sometime later, her mother confides in Williams-Paisley’s sister, Ashley, that she doesn’t want her husband to take care of her. It’s not that she doesn’t love her husband; it’s precisely because she loves him. She doesn’t want her disease to take over his life, too.

On page 75: “I don’t ever want Daddy to take care of me,” my mother cried. “Please. Please don’t let that happen.”

Her sister promises that she won’t let this happen, once again, making a promise she knows she can’t keep.

Do you think it is better to make promises in the moment to help people process their feelings? Or do you think it is better to always stick to the hard truth?

Image: Hunter Newton via Unsplash


One Comment

  • Anonymous
    October 11, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    My husband had a stroke 23 years ago & he was left unattended by the hospital, leaving himwith hemiplegiq & aphasia & other linked problems.
    My promise has been given within the wedding vow. It is just a matter of implementing ways to care & accompany him in his disability.
    There are bad days but there are also good days to make up for the bad days. Of course we should admitt that our quality of life is altered, but on the other hand, we are surrounded by real true family & friends, altruistic people. At all times, prayer help both of us.

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