That Notorious Villain Mr. Death

I received an email with sad news today: a dear friend is coming to the end of her days. A year and a half ago, the doctors said she had only two months to live, but she managed to survive happily and with grace all this time. But now, the cancer is too advanced, and chances of her surviving much longer are slim.

One of the saddest things about living to a certain age is that death seems to have become a constant presence. So many people I’ve been close to for years are gone, and those I’ve met more recently, are also going. I’ve only known this woman about three years, but despite a bit of a language problem (she spoke English with an accent I had a hard time understanding), we became instant sisters. And now I’m about to lose one more person to that notorious villain, Mr. Death.

I seem to be beset by death today. I spoke to another friend, a woman who lost her husband to The Bob, and she mentioned she’d checked a couple of my books out of the library. She had tears in her eyes when she said that my books on grief were the best books she’d ever read on the subject. It’s good to hear that, of course, and I am glad I was able to help in any way, but I would have been even gladder if none of us were in the position of knowing so much about grief in the first place.

Interestingly, she’d recommended my books to another recent widow, and that woman went to the library, but instead of checking out my grief books, she got one of my fiction books. That would have been my choice! It’s hard enough being steeped in one’s own grief without adding another person’s grief on top of yours.

I was glad to know they got the books from the library. I’d donated the books, and I worried that if the books sat on the shelf too long the librarians would get rid of them. (In other places, I’ve seen new books donated by their authors that ended up on a sale rack for 10 or 25 cents, and I didn’t want my donation to go to waste. Luckily, so far, the library has kept them.)

I’ve been gradually shifting away from the original topic — the sad news about my friend — but truly, what else is there to say except that I was honored she considered me a sister and how sad I am that she’s nearing the end. My heart (and a few tears) goes out to her husband who has so devotedly taken care of her the past couple of years.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Saying Goodbye

A dear friend left town today to go back overseas where she grew up so she can be with family and friends as she lives out her last months. I never got a chance to say goodbye, though I’m not sure that matters. This way I can always think of her the way she was the last time I saw her: happy, contented, glad to be done with pain for a while.

To be honest, I am glad she is going to be with her people. Although she fit in well with our small-town America environment, she’s from a major Asian city with food and shopping and friends on every block, and she missed all the bustle.

To be even more brutally honest, though it might make me seem small, I am glad I won’t have to watch her deteriorate. I’ve watched too many people die, and I simply cannot do it again, especially not when it comes to her.

From the first moment we met, we connected, as if we were long-lost sisters. She was so vital, so charming, so interested in everything, that the news about her being afflicted with cancer came as a shock to me. Even worse was when I found out the cancer had metastasized. And now she is gone from my life, though for a time, at least, we can still connect via email or FB messenger.

Her husband, who’s also become a friend, has already been through this before. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to find a new love and then once again, to lose that love to death. He’s got a hard time ahead, not just watching her fade away, but having to be jolly in the face of it because she doesn’t want anyone to be sad.

After the sorrow of this day, knowing she is journeying far beyond my reach without one last hug, I intend to honor her wishes and think of her at home. Happy. With her husband and family and old friends.

There will be time enough for mourning when her days are finished, but maybe even then I will simply think of her as being home where she belongs, and be happy she came into my life.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator