One of my best friends lives in another state. We text almost daily, we visit in person once a year, and one of our #lifegoals is to do a family vacation together. I love her more than I think I would love a sister, and I love her kids pretty dang close to how much I love my own kids. Maybe even the same, or more, because her kids have never screamed at me for giving them a plate that is not purple.
I met her parents the last time I visited her, at the home where she grew up. It was bittersweet. I loved seeing where she grew up and visualizing the stories she told me. But, her parents were relocating, and the house has just sold.
Her dad was sociable and friendly, but did the man thing and was in the garage for the majority of the time I was there (he was looking for something…I don’t remember what it was). I didn’t take offense to this, but chuckled at this typical man behavior.
As soon as we walked in the house, her mom welcomed us, and was the perfect hostess. She offered us snacks and drinks. The kids took the snacks and ran off, running around the house. They were obviously comfortable in this home. We chatted in the kitchen and loosely checked in on the kids by peeking in the other room. I think at one point we had to redirect her four year old son to “stop trying to reach the ceiling fan with the light saber”. Her mom is feisty and witty. I enjoyed watching her interact with everyone.
Many, many years ago (but not so many to imply that her mom is old…she’s clearly not a day over 29), my friend’s mom had a heart transplant. My friend was young when this happened, and, with good reason, has always had a fear of losing her mom. I’m not sure if her mom was expected to live as long as she has. Either way, my friend’s fear is certainly valid. This one event, granted a major event, gave her such a fear of losing her mom, that it has shaped how she views every single person who crosses her path in life. She is one who will never, ever cut people out of her life. EVER. You could murder the family dog, and she would still keep you in her life. Maybe at a distance. But not cut out for eternity.
I saw her parents one more time before we left, and I hugged her mom good-bye. I really liked her, and like so many times when we have long distance relationships with someone, I was so sad that they did not live closer so that I could experience more time with her.
That visit occurred in April of this year. About two weeks ago, my friend text me and said her mom had a lump that she was getting tested. I tried to make her feel better by brushing it off, saying it was probably nothing. Then the doctors wanted to see a specialist right away for another appointment. This was more alarming, and I didn’t feel like it was nothing anymore. I was thankful for the geographical distance between us at this point, so that she couldn’t see my face or feel my anxiety. I was officially worried for her mom.
If you ever need a distraction while you wait for doctor’s results, let me know. Here’s what you’ll get:
^True friendship, dude.
You know what’s coming next. It’s cancer. I’m in shock. My friend is angry. Her mom is angry. There are only so many options she has, being a transplant patient. However, it is treatable.
About a week later, and I’m over the shock, and I’m feeling a heavy weight on my heart. I didn’t think I would feel this way about someone I met twice. But, like I said, I love my friend fiercely. Although I do not pretend to understand how she feels, her pain is my pain. Her mom has been through so much in life already, and yet, here is more for her to take on. She is a loving wife, mother, grandmother. She doesn’t deserve this, and neither does my friend. They both deserve some worry free time.
Now what? They live three hours away from each other. She is going with her mom to doctor appointments each week. School is being missed, traveling three hours each way with three young kids is not ideal. When she is with her mom, although it’s familiar, it’s not home. Nothing beats sleeping in your own bed. Routines are disrupted. And yet, she makes it work. She just makes things happen. She still works on her house, she still gets up every day (and probably makes whatever bed she has slept in), she still feeds her kids.
What do you do for a friend who has a family member with cancer? You’re just there for her. You understand when she doesn’t respond as quickly to your texts about how to decorate the backyard. You don’t get upset when she doesn’t ask how you are (although she’s so awesome that she still asks me). You listen to them rant, cry, talk to herself. Don’t say everything will be okay. Validate the seriousness, and validate her feelings. You offer inappropriate jokes to make her laugh. You encourage her and pray for her. You ask how she’s doing, because she’s selflessly thinking only of everyone but herself.
You are her place to lean on so that she can be strong for her mom.