Life is not fair. Well…no one said it was or would be any different.
Last Thursday, a good friend of mine called. We had not spoken in a while, which wasn’t unusual, we always picked up where we left off. He works a few different jobs and spends a lot of time with his teenage daughter, I’m equally busy. He left a message in the morning and I kept trying to find a free moment to call.
I finally gave up on waiting for a good time and called him while working with my son on a math lesson. I thought I had him all set up to go, hoping I’d have a few minutes with my friend. Of course, as soon as my friend answered, my son needed help. Here I was attempting to carry on a phone conversation while walking my son through a math problem when the words “one to three months to live” filtered through.
“What did you say?”
“Well, I thought you’d want to know that I’ve been given one to three months to live.”
I told my son that school was over for the day and put on a cartoon for him, that usually buys me a bit of time. I walked out to the front room, leaned on a wall and started asking questions. Turns out, a tumor in his lung had grown so big it was causing major back pain. That can’t be good.
I’m a doer and a fighter…I don’t easily give up.
After gleaning as much information as possible, I started making calls. There’s always hope, right?
I kept making phone calls and sending emails the next day. When I went to visit him later that day, I was still thinking there was something that could be done for him. When I saw him he looked much closer to the one-month than the three-month possibility.
By Saturday morning, I received an email from my last hope—saying it would be unethical of him to even see my friend.
That’s it? No hope? Nothing? Nothing.
Today, less than a week later, I went to the hospice at our local hospital to say my final goodbyes. I am grateful his mother invited me.
“Are you sure you want to see him like this?” She’d asked over the phone.
“No. No I’m not sure, but I’m coming anyway.”
You never want to see someone you love look anything less than wonderful, but that’s not what it’s all about. People matter. People you love matter more. I can’t imagine how I would have felt had I not gone. From the moment I walked out my front door until I returned home, I never stopped crying.
I wanted to be strong for his mother and his son, but I simply could not control my tears. They silently slipped to the floor next to the hospital bed as I talked to my friend for the last time. I’m not sure he knew it was me, but I told him I would be there for his young daughter and for his mother. I couldn’t say goodbye, only that I planned on seeing him again sometime in the future. I kissed his forehead and squeezed his hand one last time.
The tears keep coming. It’s not fair. He’s too young. What about his daughter?
All of these thoughts fill my head. We had gone through so much together and I figured we’d continue to be there for each other. It’s easy to become cynical and hardened, but these are choices and we still have them to make. I don’t choose them and won’t let them choose me.
From this great loss, I hope to find greater compassion for my fellow man, a deeper love and patience for my small child.
My friend long ago taught me to slow down and appreciate more of the important aspects of life—the people, not the things and not the accomplishments.
Time, time is precious. Use it wisely—and make sure your people know you love them. As cliche as that sounds, I assure you it is not.
To my dear friend, may you pass easily and quickly find peace. You will be greatly missed.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Lauryn DeGrado/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Courtesy of Author