As I walked away from her back door for the 4th time — feeling defeated — I tried really hard to summon up an image of us holding hands during that last sweet visit on her couch. It was a freezing cold morning, but I needed to run. With every step the thickness in my throat moved it’s way up until the tears poured out. My head slowly began to lighten and clear as I ran down to the water letting the sadness move up and out. Just two weeks after Thanksgiving, it feels like a cyclone of chaos has swept me into its funnel. My mind needs a harness.
The holiday season is everywhere but at her house — where it has traditionally been filled with Chanukah decorations and gifts for not only her children but my boys too. If ever there was joy in giving and receiving my friend set the bar high. Now it takes a committed meditation practice alone on my mat or on my morning walk or run to screw my brain on straight to process what is happening. I breathe in the gratitude thoughts attempting to dispel the toxic ones. I know there’s so much to be grateful for – it’s just not easy to “feel it” amidst the sadness.
You see, my wonderful friend who has been battling cancer for these past 3 years has stopped her treatments. As the cancer takes its hold on her now, unrestrained by interventions, her pain is intensifying. It is brutal for her and her fabulous husband and amazing family who surround her with love 24/7.
I love her like a sister, like one of my own – like family – but in fact I am not family.
I don’t get to sleep over like her sister does; I don’t get to bring her tea in the middle of the night or even in the afternoon. I don’t get to cry with her anymore.
As her pain increases and her ability to receive a visit dwindles, the loss of her physical presence feels profoundly sad. It’s hard to know as a friend what to do. It has become increasingly difficult to have a positive way of helping, because as her pain keeps getting bigger, her world is getting smaller.
If ever we have a season that comes with “marching orders” it is this time of year — Tis the season to give – yet, it’s difficult to know how to give to my sweet friend at this time as our time on the couch has diminished.
It turns out a massive dose of acceptance is in order and this is a huge challenge.
The truth is — shelter from the pain of this seasonal storm is the living room couch with my husband Bill and our dog Jazz at the end of the day. Reading, listening to our new favorite podcast together, a cozy lunch at our kitchen table — just hanging out is miraculously good medicine.
Actually, she was the one who taught me how to sit still. Over these past 3 years, my kinetic jumpy energy settled when I would visit with her. Between chemo treatments, I would tuck in with her on her bed or couch and we would just hang out – she would let me massage her – and we would talk for hours. I so loved these visits.
Hours were spent on our couch as well – where we would talk the afternoon away. With a quick press on my Iphone, I would call up my darling friend from my “favorites“ list and instantly – if she was well enough — she’d head on over. But now she doesn’t answer – she can’t.
As the countdown to Chanukah and Christmas ramps up into an accelerated spin cycle – my heart aches knowing the passing time brings my friend further and further away. And that’s when I truly need to remind myself to roll out the proverbial Yoga Mat and sit – just sit and be grateful for the friendship and love we have shared, and all the love that still surrounds me.
Given that it’s December, with twinkling lights and frantic shoppers everywhere – it feels frivolous to join in, scurrying about my days, knowing how much she is suffering.
It’s not always easy to tune out the noise of this impending loss intertwined with the twinkling lights and joyful holiday music and the meet-ups with girlfriends – knowing she’s not there. It’s hard.
Salvation army bells ringing, gridlocked horns honking and crammed pedestrians pushing on through at the narrow crosswalks – All this noise fills the space during this holiday season. And my head feels like it’s bursting.
And to top it off – suddenly I’m panicked. I have no idea what to buy my boys for the holidays except socks– they seem to have enough of everything. My husband – well he doesn’t like “stuff” and I already gave my sisters their gifts at Thanksgiving. But my friend, she loved gifts – every single one and it was so easy to give to her.
Every gift I ever gave her was unwrapped like a Faberge egg – precious and worn or displayed on her mantle. The other day I saw the 3 little pumpkins I’d brought at Halloween still on her mantle ( I couldn’t believe they hadn’t rotted).
Compounded with all of this emotion, my birthday falls smack dab into the middle of the holiday season and I know she would want me to enjoy every second. But, there’s a very dark cloud that covers the ability to let go.
But then I sit quietly and repeat to myself what I am grateful for – the noise clatter in my brain quiets and the sweetness of the moment flows in.
I hear my friend’s words and feel her arms surround me and I am lifted. And I am at that moment – celebrating. I am grateful for that.