This article isn’t political or activist in nature. It’s just another one of those serendipitous instances where I had a conversation with a friend which made me think long and hard and then got a different perspective from an unexpected source.
The situation that got me thinking was this. An acquaintance was at my house last week and we were chit chatting when she mentioned that she had been dealing with a significant medical diagnosis, one that had required surgery and was pretty scary. She hadn’t told anyone about it because she didn’t want anyone fussing over her or to feel obligated to do anything for her. She was my third such friend or acquaintance in the past year to do that. All three keeping their diagnoses secret because they didn’t want the attention or the pity or to rely on anyone else for help.
And I really, REALLY don’t understand that. I am lucky enough to have never had a debilitating or life-threatening illness, so I guess I don’t truly know what I would do in that situation, but isn’t one of the wonderful things about friendship that you know you’re not alone in the world and that you have someone you can share your thoughts and fears with and know that they will do what they can to help you through a hardship?
I’m busy and overstretched, just like most moms. The responsibilities of work, kids, marriage, school, etc, etc often leave me overwhelmed and I don’t know how I could possibly get it all done. But I consider the opportunity to show a friend how much they mean to me a gift, not another burden. Whether that means a visit, a lunch to talk, or making a meal for their family…..it all seems like a small way to show the gratitude I feel for their friendship. Truthfully, I find it sad and a wee bit hurtful when a friend doesn’t give me that opportunity.
When my daughter was about a year old my grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He went through a year of radiation treatments and generally felt awful all of the time. No one, except my grandmother, knew what he was going through and apparently the only joys in his life were babysitting my daughter and his weekly trips to Foxwoods Casino to play video poker. An intensely private man, he didn’t want his kids and grandkids to worry or fuss over him. I’m sure thought he was being selfless by bearing the burden of his illness alone, (forcing my grandmother to bear it alone is another story.) but I think what he did was incredibly selfish. He denied his family the chance to show him how much he meant to them and how much they loved him. He denied them the chance to try to give back to the man who had given so much to all of his family, and it felt like he didn’t trust us to handle his diagnosis in a way that would have been helpful to him. If he had died as a result of his cancer, we would never have gotten the chance to help him in that way.
At it was, he recovered from his prostate cancer, and I think when he saw the shock and hurt he’d caused by keeping this secret from his children, he was taken aback and then he was able to look at his decision from a new perspective. When it came to his many future illnesses and health issues he was never a complainer and while he always maintained his dignity and his spirit of independence, he was also more open to allowing his loved ones to demonstrate their love through actions.
James Taylor’s Shower the People is one of my all time favorites.
As I was mulling over these thoughts and how to best put them into an article I heard that unmistakable ping which means I have a new e-mail. One of the blogs I follow, The Grome Soapbox in an interesting mix of writers speaking on the subject of atheism. My favorite of the group, Larry, is funny and a bit irrevent without being cruel or demeaning. In one of Larry’s last posts he introduced me to a poetry blogger that you can find at http://www.patcegan.wordpress.com, and I do highly recommend you check her out. Her poems are short, simple and amazingly powerful and here is the one that spoke to me on this subject. Read it slowly and carefully.
Don’t Be Silent
Cry out your pain.
Let others know your need.
Do not be stoic, silent–
lament, cry as a baby cries
and releases the milk in its
mother’s breasts. There are
helpers in the world waiting
to hear those in need. Bless
them by giving them an
opportunity to help you.
Let others know your need. Bless them by giving them an opportunity to help you.
I would love to hear different perspectives or affirmations of my thoughts here so please comment. If you like what I’ve written, like or share the blog today and don’t forget you can also like me on Facebook. Thank you for taking the time to read. Go show someone how much they mean to you.