I can only imagine

There is this couple, back home, who used to be my friends.

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?

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11 thoughts on “I can only imagine

  1. I guess… what I’ve learned, is that… life is hard. Life isn’t what you would call “fair”. And it’s certainly not what we plan out. Yucky things happen to good people. Good, wonderful, inspiring, true people. Cancer is the health horror of our times. And it will effect absolutely everyone I know, everyone you know. In some way. If it’s not them, it’s their mom, or their kid, or their best friend. And it SUCKS. And whether there is a God one places their faith in, or belief that we are just all out there on our own, thrown to the wind, there isn’t a rhyme or reason to why things happen. There are no definitive answers in this world, just vague ones when when doctors say things like, “well, sure, you have lung cancer because you smoked.” And, that’s not even always the case in lung cancer. There are gross things in our air, so how about we just not breathe?

    I know a 7-year-old little girl, a beautiful beautiful jewel, who has had recurrence of her brain cancer, family found out this week. She has been through numerous surgeries. Why does that happen? I don’t know… but do you know what she said to her mom and dad? She said, “Momma, Jesus loves me, and I want to go home. But I want to be baptized first.” And that is seeing them through. They haven’t made a decision of where to go from here, but they are assured where soul lies.

    And my mom is just as sure of her spirit’s fate. A “win/win”, she calls it. She wins here, should she stay with us longer.. She wins there, watching over us all from above.

    And that is their definitive answer.

    And I believe that for both of them. I believe in my heart that I am saved, too. But, I am here, on this Earth, and so are they still, so they suffer, and I see that. And it’s hard to swallow.

    And so it goes, as you say.

    And tomorrow will be a better day, as my momma often says. And so, I’ll look to the tomorrows, when today isn’t so good. And I will pray for today, for the strength to get me there. Because, in the end, this isn’t something I can control, and the prayer and faith is, really, all I have. I think through that, I have found answers on how to move forward. And everyone has to find that for themselves. Their own, “how to move forward”, whatever that might be.

    Anyway… that’s sure a long reply to your post. šŸ™‚

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  2. That was a beautiful tribute to friendship. Not all friendships are meant to last…you are being pushed along. It does help to some degree to only expect what someone can give. I’m still disappointed at times though. My number 1 Gallup Strength is Connectedness. I see all things, and people as connected for a reason, I look at the big picture. I think you have this too. You ponder why people are in or out of your life. It is incredibly hard to find those true blue friends. I think if you have one, you are lucky. True friends are few. Gratitude is a gift…you have that too. I never look for life to be fair, and feel completely at rest in that thought. I do know life is hard.

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  3. Beautiful. As always. And, I vote that you write your old friend to let her know you’re thinking about her. Shit like that changes you – she may very well be receptive. And, if she isn’t, you can be happy that you made an effort.

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