When friends suffer
I've lost several friends over the past two years, to fatal illnesses, and several more have recovered after harrowing treatment.
I've just read an essential article in The New York Times (Sunday, June 12) that I wish I'd had then; I hope it will be useful to you, too.
Bruce Feiler's "You Look Great and Other Lies" tells us Six Things You Should Never Say to a Friend or Colleague Who's Sick and Four Things You Can Always Say.
Brilliant, a must. (I've said at least four of the Never Says.) We say them with good intentions (plus fear, anger, embarrassment and a swirl of other emotions) even as we know there must be a better way to express our love, caring and hope.
More comments about the role friends can play is in this short clip of the Canadian journalist June Callwood, (about 8 min.) in an interview with George Stromboulopoulos a short time before she died in 2007. These few minutes illuminate her wisdom, humour and strength even as she faced the end. Her remark about squash soup is etched in my mind, among more profound comments about marriage, the hereafter and the gift of life.
In 1987, Callwood wrote "Twelve Weeks in Spring" a clear-eyed account of how a group of friends about cared for their ill friend; it too offers much about how to be present. Nearly 25 years years after being written, Twelve Weeks remains an illuminating description of how friends, and even those unknown to the ill person, can support her.
We still have a ways to go with home hospice care, but with more of us aging, it's on my mind and on my 'activist list'.
"In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."
- Mother Teresa