Love, life, and death in the time of COVID-19 or anytime, really

How do you say goodbye to a friend who is dying?

My dad as a little boy. Who knew he would get only 62 years and two months? Thanks, Agent Orange.

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.



4 thoughts on “Love, life, and death in the time of COVID-19 or anytime, really

  1. You tell her you love her and will never forget her; that you value all the things you learned from her; that you’ll never forget the whatever-you-all-did-together-that-you-loved; and that you will stay in touch with Doc L.

    Those are only a few of the things that I never really got to say to my childhood best friend before she died last year. I did get to see her and said the first one, but she was past the point of understanding the rest. THAT’s what I regret. And don’t wait too long to do it, like I did.. If you can’t go see her (why not, it’s not she’ll give you Covid now and vice versa) then make arrangements for FaceTime or DUO so that you can at least see her and talk to her, but do it today (ok, tomorrow) even if you think there will be plenty of time. There may not be.

    She already knows everything you will say and she probably feels the same way, but you need to say it – really.

    As so sorry for your coming loss. A big hug for you …


    1. xoxo Thank you. I did get to visit her the other day, but I still want to write her a note. Your script is perfect.

      I did leave it too late with a former boyfriend. I knew he was sick and in the hospital. I sent him some notes and some puzzles and I kept intending to make and send him some brownies – and he died before I got around to it. So now I send brownies right away. You are so righ – you can’t wait too long.


  2. Tears in my eyes. We shouldn’t need to be reminded of these truths, but thank you for the reminder. I am so sorry for your coming loss.


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