We all know that, but it just seems like lately too many people that I know are battling with it.
A few months ago I saw someone that meant a great deal to me when I was growing up. She had the same smile, but a different body.
She’s dying of cancer. Not sick with it. Dying of it.
After I saw her I sat in my car and cried. I cried for her pending passing, and I cried for my inability to know how to act around her.
When I saw her, I treated her just like I would have if she hadn’t been sick. Was acting normally, and by normally I mean asking about her children but skirting the issue of her health, the right thing to do? Did it make it seem like I was oblivious to what I was seeing or insensitive? Should I have acknowledged what I saw and instinctively knew? I wish I had the answer, but I’ll never ask.
I did the same thing when my uncle died, you know. I just acted like everything was peachy and have regretted it for years. I wish I would have told my uncle all the things I wanted to, but didn’t. I wish I had had the nerve to have a real conversation with him about real thoughts and feelings.
Obviously a deep conversation would not have been appropriate in this chance meeting with my friend, but still………
I decided that since didn’t know how to confront the issue face to face, I’d write her a letter. I held onto the letter for a few weeks before giving it to Jeff to read and then mail if he thought it was appropriate. I hate that I am so unsure of what is appropriate and what is not in situations like this. He mailed the letter, and when I found out my stomach knotted. What if it was offensive in some way? Does anyone that is dying really want goodbyes?
This is part of how I prefaced the letter:
“So……..here I am. Not knowing if my words will be able to express what I’ve wanted to say to you……..but hoping…..really hoping that I don’t mess this up and you’ll accept my words as heartfelt……….and that if as I type them I have tears in my eyes for not doing this before and probably only because of what I saw when I saw you because I’m, well, me, you’ll forgive me.”
I received word that my letter meant a lot to my friend. Truthfully, I was worried. I had only good intentions, but I just was so unsure. I thought it would make me feel better hearing that, but the truth of the matter is that I still feel terrible that she is dying. I think of her children losing their mother and my heart feels like it’s bleeding for them. I think of how I’d feel as a mother and a child in this situation and it breaks my heart.
I hate that. I hate cancer. I hate that it makes me feel like a fool that doesn’t know what to do or say. What I really hate though is that it attacks people. And it’s just not fair.