Monday, March 29, 2010

We'll Miss You

A friend died two weeks ago. Because she confided in me a little bit, I knew she was sick, but I didn’t realize she was sick-sick. My friend was funny and serious, playful and stern. Her laugh, once she got rolling, was infectious. When we went to meetings together, she asked the hard questions. She was fun to sit next to, and we liked making snarky comments with each other. She was so involved in our church I wondered how she made it all work, with a full-time job, a family, and so many other commitments.

Because our church community is large, it wasn’t that hard for her to keep her illness quiet. With 3 different Sunday services, and people coming and going in our busy metropolitan area, you can go weeks or months without bumping into people. While this is NOT conducive to a caring, nurturing environment, it helped my friend stay under the radar her last few months on earth.

On a Wednesday, I found out she was going into Hospice care. On Thursday I learned she was already gone.

I’ve been thinking about my friend, and the way she handled her illness and death. A few months ago, when she shared with me, but told me not to tell anyone, she explained, “I don’t want people to see me as a sick person. I don’t want that to define my interactions with them.” I got it. I respected it. My friend lived and died on her own terms. It was so… HER.

My own mother, who died at age 46, didn’t know she was sick-sick. She had a ton of friends and well-wishers who wanted to visit her in the hospital while she was undergoing tests. She could have easily been overwhelmed with visitors, but instead she opted for a no-visitor policy.

Did she not want to be seen in a vulnerable state, teeth unbrushed, hanging out of a skimpy hospital gown? Was she afraid of being worn out? Maybe. But really, there was one nosy friend who volunteered at the hospital, and Mom thought it was important enough for her health and well being, to exclude ALL visitors rather than have this one woman poking her head in and out. This was in the ‘80’s, and I don’t know what we called “friends” like that then, but I believe now we call them “Frenemies.”

While I understood and respected my mom’s choice, and my friend’s as well, I’ve been witnessing the aftermath in our church community. There is a lot of shock. And pain. People wished they had known and could have sent cards. They wish they could have supported my friend’s husband and kids with meals. They wanted the chance to pray.

Reaching out to those in hardship helps those in need, but it helps the friends too. Doing something tangible may not change the end results in an illness, but it can make it feel as if we are coming alongside a friend on her final journey.

Christians are called to be Christ’s hands and feet on this earth. We are called to DO for others in need. Sometimes we answer the call, sometimes we fail miserably,
and sometimes we aren’t given the chance. I believe my friend handled her death in a way that was right for her. No sappy sentiments, no hand wringing, no goodbyes.

I just hope she knows how much she was loved.



P.S. For those of you who are dealing with the end of life of a loved one, I recommend a book I read recently. A Sacred Walk by Donna Authers.

17 comments:

Kristina P. said...

I have a friend whose dad did the same thing your friend did. He passed away of leukemia a couple of years ago, and no one knew he had it. I can respect that, but I do think it can be even harder on the ones left behind to feel like they are helpless and not be able to say goodbye.

kim jackson said...

well done....

for a different kind of girl said...

Condolences on the loss of your friend. While I can understand the feelings of her friends, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the dignity in which she wanted to spend her final days.

Elisa @ whatthevita said...

I agree. My grandma died last summer from cancer that I didn't know was even serious. I wish everyday that she had been honest with us so I would have flew to see her before she went away. Now she's gone and I have no idea if she knows how much I really appreciated and loved her. I didn't get a chance to really show her before she went away. I learned from this and I won't keep it a secret from my loved ones if I'm dying - its much more for them than me... Because, after all, they'll be the ones left behind.

Christy said...

My condolences, Anna. So sorry you didn't have a chance to say goodbye. We've lost a few family members in the last couple of years...death and grief are just so tough. I'm sure she knows how much she was loved, and is missed. My thoughts are with you!

High-Heeled Foot in the door said...

Oh no I'm so sorry to hear about your lose. I really have no words to help make this situation any better, but I'm here if you need a friend.

I must agree with everyone else. She was so brave to deal with her sickness the way she did.

Masala Chica said...

Anna - I am sorry for your loss. she sounds like she was an amazing person who wanted to enjoy her last days without people feeling the pain that she would be leaving. It's a hard thing not to have closure - but I am sure she can hear your goodbyes and your love.
Kiran

Anonymous said...

I bookmarked your blog weeks ago, but just settled in to read it tonight. Your entry today was more than timely, as we found out days ago that my dear uncle is in stage four of pancreatic cancer. I'm ordering "A Sacred Walk" tonight. Thank you for "being" there when I needed it.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Oh Anna - I'm so sorry. Her family is lucky to have such a strong, supportive community. Even if they couldn't help over the past few months, there will be plenty of help that can be given now. So sad...

Glennon said...

Thank you, Anna. This makes me wonder if this place where we live is just too "anonymous" for me. Do you ever think that?
I'm sad, and sorry for you and your friend.

citymouse said...

I am sorry for your sadness.

I have recently lost my mother and my brother. My mother's death was unexpected and I felt robbed of the chance to say goodbye, etc. Then my brother became ill and his death was looming. I did get to spend extra time with him because I knew it was limited but I have to say that watching him die was the hardest thing I have ever done. While the shock of my mother's death still lives with me, every day I had with her was filled with life and not thoughts of death.

I think the real lesson here is to always cherish the time we have with those we care about so we have no regrets.

Nichole@40daysof said...

Really thought provoking and well said.

Brenda Susan said...

My sympathies go out to you dear friend. Sudden death is a difficult season to go through & my prayers of comfort are with you this week.

Tomorrow is the birthday of my young 30 yr old friend who died last June. Our church is still dealing with her unexpected death.

Diane said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, beautifully said. God Bless.

Heidi said...

I'm so sorry.

I can see and respect both sides of this...what her wishes were and the need for a community to surround her...

This is a great post. Full of insight and compassion. Thank you for this. And, again, I am truly sorry.

Amanda said...

I'm still mourning the loss of my beloved Nanny, who passed away a month ago tomorrow. She was very special to all of us, and my relationship with her was something I will cherish forever.
We knew her death was coming, but there were never any "goodbyes" as that is not how she wanted it.
It's a pain I wouldn't wish on my worse enemy.

Stimey said...

I'm so sorry.