They used to be our friends really, but when my marriage split up, they went with him.
So it goes.
One of the (many) lessons I’ve learned in the last four years is that no friendship is guaranteed and that they are much more fleeting than I’d like them to be.
It is what it is.
A different old friend once told me to figure out what you can expect from every person in your life. And then expect no more.
That way, she said, you won’t be disappointed.
That wisdom has stuck with me (though I’m sad to say the friendship has not).
So this couple back home … we spent quite a bit of time together. Dinners, play dates … we even went on a much-needed weekend getaway once. They weren’t the best friends I’d ever had, but we got along and I cared about them.
After my divorce, I lost touch, but I heard the news anyway: The woman, my old friend, had cancer.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that, about her, about the surgery she had to try to save her life, the surgery that would forever alter her body, her self-esteem, her confidence, her who-she-is .. or that’s how it played out in my head.
I wanted to help, to do something, to make that all go away. For them. I wanted to bring them a dinner.
But I didn’t. I stayed away because they had asked to not be friends anymore. They had taken sides, and it wasn’t mine. That didn’t mean I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about them, hoping they were doing OK.
I heard later that she was better, that her cancer was in remission. I imagined how that sort of relief must feel, how that sort of thankfulness must roll around on the tongue, in the heart.
I went back to living my own life, filing that family away into where ever we put people we no longer know but one time cared about.
A few days ago, I heard her cancer had returned. Oh, no, I said. What does that mean for them? I asked. It means lots of chemo, lots of money, my ex-husband wrote in an e-mail.
Lots of worry, lots of pain, lots of upheaval and awfulness and why-me-why-again, too, I’m sure.
I can only imagine. And even now, though we’re no longer friends, I can’t stop hoping they’re OK.
A woman I’ve never met and don’t really know is also battling cancer right now. She writes a blog for a website I run for my job. She has two sons; they’re little. And this week she wrote about the way it feels to know you won’t be able to make any more babies because the chemo she’s about to undergo kills that part of her body, that part of her soul.
She’s brave. She’s not taking any moment for granted and she’s realizing she’s not guaranteed even one more breath. She’s encouraging me to do that, too. Us. Everyone.
Plans are only to make us feel better, she says. They’re really not worth much of anything. At all.
I hate that anyone has to know that.
I miss my friends back home every day. Not the couple who long ago were my friends, but my true, do-anything-for-me-including-going-to-my-divorce-hearing-so-I-don’t-have-to-do-that-alone friends. The friends who picked me up, the ones who still do.
I have two girlfriends here, in my new home, and while it’s not the same (yet) as my friends back home, I love them for their place in my life right now.
One of those friends has cancer in her life, too. Her mom.
She’s had it for six years, and nothing is the same. My friend’s world was turned upside down, and while she’s adjusted to a new normal, it’s a new normal. On a crazy tilt that sometimes must feel like it will never end. It’s a normal nobody asked for, nobody wanted, nobody deserves.
And it’s not fair and it’s not right and to those people who believe in God, it’s his will. And somehow that makes it better for them, easier to cope, and I understand needing something to put your faith in, your trust in, your hopes, your worries, your anger.
But I don’t really get it.
And I’m scared.
Health is such a precious thing.
What can we do? What can any of us do?