How do you say goodbye to a friend who is dying?
I just got off the phone with my friend Doc T. His wife, L, was my first friend when I moved to Milwaukee. I met her at the Y in body pump. I admired her haircut, got the name of her stylist, Carol (who became my stylist and remained my stylist and Mr T’s stylist until she retired last fall), and voila we were friends.
L is dying.
She has had cancer for a few years now.
They are done. There is no more treatment they can do.
L is direct. Last week, she had her daughter post for her on facebook that she had spent a week in the hospital and was coming home to go into home hospice. “Thanks to COVID there are not currently plans for a service.”
I asked Doc T if L was in any pain.
No, she’s not, he told me.
At least there’s that.
“It’s going to be a slow process,” he said.
What do you say to that?
He continued. “But that gives me more time with her.”
Why don’t the jerks get cancer? Why is it the nice people who suffer? I have a whole list of people we could do without in this world.
My friend is not one of them. She is a nice person. Doc T had finally retired and they were going to do retiree stuff – travel, see the world, enjoy their grandchildren.
And now that won’t happen.
I am working on a project for my city’s anti-racism group. I have an intern who is 19. Last week, on Thursday, I had asked if she could meet on Friday, July 3.
She hesitated. Her family was taking a short weekend vacation, leaving Friday morning.
“But I might have some downtime where I can work on the project the rest of the weekend!” she said.
Nonononono I told her. No. No.
You spend your time with your family while you can.
Work is never more important than your family. Never.
I didn’t want to tell her that I would give anything to spend time with my dad again. That I treasure my memories of our family vacations and time just hanging out on the porch with him. That I still think about the sound of his voice when he would tell us stories when I was a kid. That when he was in hospice, we prayed and prayed for a miracle but the only miracle we got was that the two-pound bag of peanut M&Ms in his room remained unopened and untouched for an entire week.
I didn’t want to warn her that the people you love can be taken from you. That you are not guaranteed a long time with anyone. That fathers can die at 62, an age I now really realize is absurdly young. That friends can die or go into hospice at 67, which is also – it’s way too young.
I just told her to enjoy her weekend – that the work would wait. Work will always be there. Your loved ones will not.