What Do You Do?

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The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.

 Henri Nouwen quotes (Dutch Christian writer 1932 – 1996)

"If I were to say, ‘God, why me?’ about bad things, then I should have said, ‘God, why me?’ about the good things that happened in my life"  Arthur Ashe

You might recall that I said we visited three people in one day at the local hospital last week.  One person, L. I have been friends with for over a dozen years.  Ours is not a ‘pick up the phone and chat’ relationship.  We might not see one another for months even though we live in the same small town.  Still, we have a connection.  A solid friendship.  We learned last week that L. has terminal cancer and a clot in her heart.  Either one can take her at any time. 

My dear friend, N, who is now cancer free is in the hospital for a stem cell transplant (they are using her own stem cells).  It seems that Non Hodgkins lymphoma often recurs if the stem cell transplant is not performed. 

Another friend’s husband has just been diagnosed with cancer.  It is early and, hopefully, can be treated.

How does one be a friend in these situations?  This is not my first time dealing with such afflictions.  I believe it was my sister who noted how many people I know who have or had cancer.  Some are living and some didn’t make it.

Himself doesn’t know what to say if he visits.  I tell him to just be there.  Just being there is often enough.  Doing practical things for the patient or their family such as shopping or cooking, cleaning is appreciated.  Still, your presence and your prayers are what they covet most.

The next couple of months promise to be difficult.  However, as the first quote goes, I hope to be a friend who cares.

Not all my news is depressing.  We finished the ESL (English as a Second Language) cycle at my church with a feast!  The students’ final exam was to bring a dish from their home country and explain how they prepared it.  The food was fantastic!  Empanadas, stuffed cabbage, sweet rice, pasteles……..oh, forget the diet!  I hadn’t had some of these dishes in years!  The students were so proud and we are so proud of them.  They worked hard and their English has improved beautifully.  They appreciate every minute you put into their education.

Well, Bells is here today instead of Friday and she doesn’t like my spending too much time here.  God bless you all.  Stay safe.  g


9 responses to “What Do You Do?

  1. Have fun today. Is it Friday yet? I fouled up my calendar for this weekend by forgetting to put a major event down for Sunday afternoon. And I’m taking my Girl Scout troop camping at the beach this weekend. I’ll miss tomorrow’s Feast. I hope your weekend is enjoyable. Hugs!

  2. Bless your heart, how hard it must be for you to watch so many of your friends struggle! You’re right. I think it helps so much to just be present. Maybe it’s a reminder of what ‘normal’ is, or that another presence helps bolster an inner strength, but it’s not whether or not you say the ‘right thing’, it’s that you are merely there.
    The ESL program sounds terrific. I’m thinking maybe that’s something our church should keep in mind. We don’t have a pressing need for it yet, but I’m sure it’s coming and the church is always looking for ways to reach out to the community.
    Have a great day with Bells! -cindy

  3. hi gail, sometimes there are just no words, being there, giving a hug, holding a hand, is sometimes all we can do. sometimes the holy spirit will inspire us  to say something, I have found from experience, people have repeated back to me something I have said, which helped them, and I dont even remember saying it.  I also find, that as I get older, illness and death is harder rather than easier to deal with, we can only lean heavily on the lord in these situations, which I am sure you do. god bless – hugs nita.

  4. Cancer in itself is a freaky word……so terrible.
    Gail you are a GREAT friend! How? Just by posting this blog and wondering.
    I trust you will know what to do. Be there with sick people is depressing specially when you do not know that to say, what to do, how to act and react.
    Sometimes it is just holding a hand can make a difference.
    I am sure you will make them feel happy and blessed to have you as a friend.
    Take care,

  5. the best thing you can give your friends is time and attention – to listen if they want to talk or to just sit there with them if they dont.  I am sorry you are dealing with so much at once though

  6. Having just gone through this with my friend Pat, who recently passed, I can tell you.. they want your time, your ability to listen IF they want to talk about hard things, and the ability to just laugh and visit and treat them normally if they want that.. They want to know they matter.. they want to know they’ve made a difference to someone. Pat and I remembered some of the great memories we have of growing up together, and of being adults together. I heard many memories of being a wife and a mother I had never heard before… I helped her plan what she wanted to have happen in certain instances.. I let her talk about God, herself, WHATEVER she was thinking about.. and sometimes I made fun of her and made her laugh.. That was treating her as though I cared just as much now as at any time in our lives. And she appreciated it. I let her cry, without feeling I HAD to fix it.. and I fixed it if I could..
    In other words, I was what I have always tried to be.. her friend..
    Blessings as you try to be a friend to yours that are traveling a hard road..

  7. Just found out this morning that a friend (previous) on spaces passed away.  Until she became too sick to continue communicating, I never stopped thinking of her.  Yes, just being there is the response we both consider the best.  Gail, I really would love to write a tribute to this dear woman, but proper words escape me.  It really is like losing a member of the family, and with these long distant friendships it just breaks my heart that we have lost another sweet soul and heaven has gained yet another saint.  Becoming attached to some people is as natural as breathing fresh air.  Know that your friends will be remembered this night.  This post touched me deeply.  Your friendship is a gift this man treasures.  Be well my friend.

  8. hi G,
    Yeah…it’s hard to find the right words to say when visiting someone with cancer. the least we could do is to pray…and as you say, help out in practical ways.
    the ESL party sounded fun. 🙂 You’re fantastic to have stayed committed all the way. I’ve seen ESL volunteers here drop out coz they weren’t payed. Takes commitment and a heart that cares. 🙂
    God bless and have a beautiful weekend.

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