Sunday, 15 April 2012

Courage (for my friend moe)

Courage
A year ago tomorrow, an old friend passed away from cancer. We had lost touch over the last several years, our interactions reduced to chance meetings in the grocery store that never allowed a proper reconnect. When I found out he had cancer I was pretty sure that I could turn my head and simply wait it out, then watch for his obituary in the paper. Maybe attend the funeral, but not likely.
Then I started to think about how a man my age, just 41, would feel when doctors declared there was nothing left for them to do. What would I want of my friends and family? What would I want from my long lost friends who I only passed by with a nod and a “we should get together” in the lineup at the bank every six months. At first I fell into the easy trap that says, “I wouldn’t know what to say to him,” which sounded like a plausible excuse at the time.
I’m thinking to myself, I don’t even really know the guy anymore, we haven’t hung out in like, 10 years and besides, he probably doesn’t want to talk about it anyway. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that that was a pretty cowardly way to go. I wasn’t the one fighting for life and having to wrap up my affairs with the bank and the funeral home and say goodbye to the extended family.  All I had to do was hideout and pretend everything was okay. My end of things was a breeze all things considered.
Then, by chance, I read about a terminally ill man who wanted to have his funeral before he died so that people could say all the nice things they would say at the funeral, but to his face. What a great idea. Why waste all the good sentiments after the fact, when it could all be said in person. I took this to heart and decided that I would at least try and contact my friend by email and say what was on my mind.
I decided to take the blunt approach, because I couldn’t really see any other way around it. I told him that I had heard that he was terminally ill and I was upset and saddened to hear it. Then I said I always looked back fondly on the time we had spent together and that I admired him for his bravery in the fight. Years earlier, he had been instrumental in finding employment for another good friend of mine, pretty much as a favour to me, and I reminded him of that and said I was always grateful that he had helped out on my word.
He wrote my back quite soon after, and the first line of his email made me realize I had made the right choice.
Hello Ian

Thanks so much for reaching out.

I have done the same to many many people and have been overwhelmed by the response. I am now getting the second wave of friends just like you reaching out to say hello and i am very pleased that you did.


He told me about a celebration he was having soon at a local pub and that I should drop on by. I did drop by, and I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the last time I would see him. We didn’t chat all that much, because there was a bunch of people there all wanting to wish him well and to be truthful, I don’t actually recall much of our conversation and I am okay with that. What I would not have been okay with is if I had gone with my first instinct and stuck my head in the sand, coming up for air when the coast was clear. I knew that he was appreciative of the effort (however small) on my part to contact him in the first place and I suppose that made me feel like I had done right. Sometimes you have to say the things that need to be said or you will end up regretting it forever. Sometimes you have to say things to a friend who is dying.
“What do you want me to do,
to do for you
to see you through?”
Robert Hunter – Box of Rain

1 comment:

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