When I was caring for Dave, lots of people who love us wanted to help us but didn’t know how. Dave, until almost the end, didn’t want to ask, but he LOVED company and talking with his artist friends about anything but cancer. He thought they should reach out and just know. But how could they? So I said, “Come over. Sooner rather than later.”
For me, I needed those who came to put down their own reluctance to face mortality, his and ours. If they couldn’t handle their own stuff, I didn’t want them anywhere near me and mine. I had enough to deal with. Harsh, but true. We had enough of our own fear, grief and anger without adding more.
The oncologist marveled that Dave lived as long as he did and credited the nurturing environment I created and insisted on most of all and David’s willfulness. Usually Stage 4 pancreatic cancer patients last 6 weeks to 3 months. He lived, really lived, 11 months.
Now, my needs change like the tides and are as constant and unpredictable as them too. At first, I needed to see people every day. Now, I am still badly hug deprived but need alone time too. I was better at taking care of him than I am at taking care of me. Fortunately, I have friends and family who insist on that. I want people to keep reaching out to me, even if I can’t reach back for a while. I have the attention span of a fruit fly and can’t bear to be with too many people for too long. Unfair, I know, but true. LOL.
And it’s important to have these awkward, inarticulate, uncomfortable conversations which we avoid. We all want the other person to just know. But how can they? Just start somewhere. Just ask something. Because there are no bridges without someone reaching a hand across the chasm of misunderstanding.
I met another widow last night when I went out to sing. Friends moved around her awkwardly, hugged her with reticence, and she sat alone, maybe by choice . I remember those days and some days, it’s still that way for me too.
To whom will you reach out a hand and open a new conversation today?