Friendship is a treasure in most circumstances. Some friendships are draining; some friends always seem to take more than they give. But true mutual friendships are rare and valuable. Such is the one I share with this certain friend.
Sunday night I stayed at the hospital with my friend who is dying of cancer—ovarian, now liver, lungs, and who knows where else it has spread. Her body has changed immensely from when I first knew her thirty years ago, and her left leg is swollen to three times the size of mine. (And mine aren’t skinny!)
But, as usual, I left refreshed and encouraged because of spending time with her. We talked about important things; we shared trivial stories. All work together to form the patchwork of our special relationship.
We prayed together at “lights out.” We prayed together again before I left. It’s almost redundant, for I “pray without ceasing” for her—for a miraculous healing, but especially for comfort from pain and a peaceful spirit. True to form, after I prayed for her, she prayed for me in precious detail.
She knows God is in control, but she also is pragmatic enough to know that people have free will and God will let them mess up their lives if they choose. She worries about her family and what will happen to them when she is gone. Her concerns are valid; I cannot conscientiously dismiss them. Instead, I ask how I can help them after she is gone. She doesn’t know, but she’s thinking about it.
Her continued mental sharpness is amazing. She knows all her doctors, their specialties, their idiosyncrasies. She had some red spots on her shoulder and diagnosed it herself to the nurse, who agreed. When the doctor said it was probably that (of course I don’t recall the word), the nurse told him that my friend had diagnosed it immediately. The knowledge comes from fighting cancer and dealing with doctors for eleven years; the remembering it surely is a gift from God.
During the eleven years, her husband has had open heart surgery and knee replacement, among other illnesses, so their finances are depleted and beyond depleted. Friends have rallied to their cause, and I could assure her that we’ve collected the thousands needed for her funeral.
When I told other friends that we’ve reached our goal, they immediately said that they still wanted to contribute because her husband can surely use any surplus when she’s gone. When I told her that people were still wanting to give beyond what was needed, she immediately said, “Oh, getting more would be great, because there might be someone else who needs the money.” So typical that she’s always thinking of others and how she can ease their lives.
She told me about shopping for my birthday gift six weeks ago. She shared funny stories about her mother, also a beloved friend, who died six years ago. We talked about everything from getting rid of mattresses to grandchildren. I got the information to use for her obituary. There were no holds barred in our conversations.
We don’t know if she has hours, days, or weeks. I did note that she needs her pain meds long before time for the next dose. All I can do is keeping seeing her as often as possible and thinking of things to make her laugh. Laughter is one of God’s great gifts that she still enjoys to the fullest, so I’ll try to keep that in good supply.