I’m an avid reader. I usually have several books I’m reading at the same time. One is always my easy night reading, some fiction that doesn’t require me to think. In the morning it’s usually a non-fiction about self-improvement, spirituality or business.
I find myself searching right now for a book that will help me understand my feelings as my friend quickly nears the end of her life due to cancer. It’s not how to deal with grief as she hasn’t passed yet. It’s almost a “how to prepare to miss someone” that I’m looking for.
I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist.
So often I find myself comparing the end of her life to the beginning of life. When you’re about to have a baby and you’re waiting with excitement and a little trepidation about the birthing process. You prepare the bag for the hospital, decorate the nursery and buy the clothes. But just as there’s no manual for being a parent there’s no manual for grieving. You can read or take a class, but you never know how YOU will feel. Here we are waiting for her death also with trepidation about the process. Her family has made plans and we’ve prepared but I certainly don’t know how I will feel. Each birth is as unique as each death.
I’m so grateful that my friend and I have this time together to say all we want to say and to just be together. And while I know she’s at as good a place mentally as she can be with her imminent passing, there’s definitely fear on her part and anxiousness on mine – waiting for the call or text when she tells me she’s decided the time has come to go to hospice. You see she’s made the decision that she wants to die at hospice not home. She doesn’t want her family having that memory of their home where so many happy ones were made.
I have good friends who check in on me through this process – people who know she’s a close friend and understand that I’m hurting but can’t hurt too much in front of her. It’s almost impossible to explain how I’m feeling because, to be honest, I don’t know how I’m feeling. Right now, I’m numb, waiting for the inevitable grief.
Every morning I wake up wondering if this will be the day she decides it’s time to go to hospice. When my texts go unanswered for too many hours or she tells me she has new pain I worry. It’s the next chapter and almost the final one. I realize that once she goes to hospice the only question left to consider every morning is whether this will be the day she passes. I haven’t allowed myself to think about that yet or how much I will miss her. How her passing has affected me like no other since the passing of my baby at 4 months-old to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
It’s ironic that those two deaths have been so different. Connor died with no warning and apparently completely healthy. There was no time to prepare myself emotionally for my world completely crashing around me. It took years for me to even slightly recover.
And now I have just the opposite experience. The opportunity to say goodbye and spend precious time with her. I have the benefit through the loss of my son to understand all too well the grieving process and that while her passing will leave a gaping hole in my life I will at some point smile thinking about her.
How do I prepare for her dying? I don’t. I simply enjoy every minute I have with her right now.