Wednesday, November 21, 2012


"I'm scared you're going to die."

She hugs me tight, her words filtering down through her fingertips onto my back, desperately hoping in the power of her hug to keep me here.

I understand that grip.

One time my brother-in-law caught a bald headed eagle and put it in his truck. On the floor of his truck was a paper bag full of groceries. That bird put one of its talons right through a can of tomato soup. My brother-in-law knew he didn't have the power to get the bird to loosen its grip, the bird had to do that itself.

And so does my friend. I can try to calm her fears but I can't make them disappear. I haven't seen her since my first surgery. I'd been puzzled by her silence and yet not really. I reassure her that I understand her lack of contact.

I do.

I think specifically of several people. A friend whose life I disappeared from while she had cancer. I just stopped showing up. Or the friend who used to babysit my kids when she was a teenager, who - years later - lost her own teenager in an accident. How I couldn't bring myself to ring her doorbell. Much to my shame it didn't prevent me from telling anyone who would listen to me at the funeral that I knew her when. I also think specifically of this friend. Mea Culpa.

A loved one told me she did an online search for"how to not be an asshole while trying to support someone who has cancer." I think that's the reason many people stay away. The reason I have done so, too. When I look at it that way, my lack of action is due in part to an ego driven response. Fear of not looking good, of someone thinking less of me, in the face of their pain. And then there is the desire not to add to their suffering. I'm scared of getting it wrong.

Fear has been my most faithful companion in life. I've gripped it's hand so tight through the years. It's been one of my longest standing prayers for it to stop overshadowing my every move. Now is the perfect opportunity to learn how to let go a little more. Holding on tight doesn't have the power I thought it did. Thank God.

As my friend and I hug goodbye, her grip a little looser, she whispers in my ear, "Please don't die." I whisper back, "I don't plan to anytime soon.".


Rebekah Grace said...

Always love gulping down your posts! Ironic that I just wrote this morning about assholes(me) and getting things wrong.

I watched Parenthood last night - breast cancer, chemo, she was sick. I cried wondering how I'd handle it if I was the one sick or the one watching. I appreciate your candor!


annie said...

Lovely thoughts, Hope. I just hate the way you are having to come to these insights.

I have two people who never said a word through my surgery nor with the death of my son. One had sons who were friends with my son. The other saw me one day and asked me to email her to tell her about what was going on. I did and have never heard another word from her. It hurts, but I sort of understand.

My own experiences have made me resolve to be better at being with people who have similar losses but I still don't do it well.

Mary Christine said...

It has taken me a lifetime to get over my mother's excessive advice about what was "proper" to say and what wasn't. It has paralyzed me at times.

In AA I have learned that it isn't about me, and that is extremely helpful.

Happy Thanksgiving. I am particularly grateful you are alive and blogging.

tina hunt said...

I get this, but I so definitely needed to be reminded to stop disappearing.

Hope said...

I have that episode recorded but haven't watched it yet.

Hope said...

Yep - it's a lousy way to learn - I agree.

Jim said...

You shoot from the hip and write from someplace down deep inside you, a place where I suspect is also where "deep calleth unto deep" in your conversations with Him. It is, though, why I love to stop here even though, as a man, I feel my own words not worthy to offer. You have a "gift" within you, my friend, one He can use, even in the middle of this that has come to you.....