Two days ago, I got a phone call no one wants to get, from my friend who got news she never wanted to hear. For the past 6 months, I’ve been on-call for one of my best friends as she goes through the toughest thing she has yet faced in her life. Her dad has been fighting a very aggressive terminal cancer since the holidays, which came quite out of nowhere. Literally, they were hiking the Appalachian Trail last August, and a few months later he goes in the hospital and they tell him he has 6 months to a year to live. He didn’t even make it to 6 months… her phone call to me 2 days ago, was to tell me that he had died the night before.
I burst into tears with her. And I will never forget the moment. I was cooking dinner in the kitchen, Mexican Food for Cinco De Mayo. None of us felt he was that close to death yet. I certainly did not think that this was the phone call I was going to get this week. We cried together, and we talked both about the hard stuff and the stuff that is a relief. His battle was quite short and he did not have a long, painful death. He died peacefully in his sleep. His suffering is over. Of course, I could tell that there was a sense of relief for her, as this whole thing has coincided with her mother also having cancer, and these months have truly pushed them all to the edge. Fortunately, her mom’s was not as serious and she is expected to recover well, but even so, it has been especially draining for them all as a family.
This whole thing has not been easy for me either. While I’m not going through it myself, It’s brought up my own grief, particularly related to my dad’s death 7 years ago. Hearing her pain has been heartbreaking, knowing that nothing can take it away and nothing can fix it. Knowing that the best thing I can do is just sit beside her and be there, letting her know she doesn’t have to sit in the pain alone. Knowing that she is on a journey that will mean she is losing some of her innocence, and that nothing can change that, is hard too.
I’ve been grateful to be someone she can feel comfortable going to in such a time though. I have been grateful that it has deepened our friendship a lot. Just a few weeks ago in Texas, she and I had time to visit each other and sit by the campfire. We talked about her dad and about Drew. We talked about Drew’s death and what I’ve been through in ways that we never had before, because she had never been through something that traumatic. You could tell, in a way, she was starting to see some of the depth of pain I have endured in a new way. And I was able to see hers having walked thru the loss of my parents and Drew.
It reminded me of what a gift death brings when it comes. It no doubt creates a deepening of the remaining relationships in our lives. A bond that can never be broken. It was certainly the gift Drew left me. We may not want it when it gets here, but in these passing months, I have been so grateful that her dad left each of us a gift of a friendship that has grown stronger and will last for all our days to come. It’s hard to think having lost my own parents so young, that so many of my friends may start losing their parents in this next decade of their lives. It’s hard knowing what so many people I love will still have yet to go through. There aren’t really words for it. The best we can do is to be there for one another in that time of need as it comes.