reclaiming my voice…

Musings before I sleep…

Twenty-one years ago I chose to be the primary caregiver for a good friend dying of glioblastoma (brain cancer). One of the things that left me dumbfounded was how so many of his good friends simply disappeared, when they heard of his diagnosis. I could not comprehend how they really could have been good friends at all, but simply considered it their loss. When I spoke to hospice friends, they reassured me that some people just don’t know what to say to someone who is dying, or grieving, so they say nothing.

Fast forward to 2018 and my fourth good friend was dying of cancer. I challenged myself to call her every week to ten days to check in, to see how she was feeling, how chemo was kicking her butt, how much weight she had lost, where the radiation zapped her now, etc. I admit it wasn’t always easy, but it was important. Our conversations vacillated between reality, humor and sorrow.

In due course, I sort of lost my language. I felt like my mouth opened but the words didn’t come out, or if they did they made no sense. I said dumb shit like telling her son Mel that he looked just like the quilt she made about him, instead of vice versa. Or referring to her sister Sharon, as Carol. (no, that’s me!)

Two months ago, I wrote her a card to tell her how much she meant to me, and how much she had impacted my life. I struggled through it, feeling like I had the vocabulary of a small child. I felt numb. I just couldn’t find my words. They had locked away somewhere. Finally, I just mailed it in disgust. She never said anything about it, nor did I. I just felt relief that I had said something, even if it was elementary. We ended each phone call with I love you, so at least that part was communicated.

Today my language returned. I was able to write a loving tribute to her. Upon reflection I realize that like those friends of twenty years ago, I simply did not know what to say. Yet I pushed through it, stumbled around and squeezed something out.

My wisdom is this. If you need to say something to someone, put on your big girl panties (or big boy shorts) and just do it. Time is a-wastin.

Welcome home, my voice.

8 Responses to “reclaiming my voice…”

  1. Helen Johnston says:

    Beautifully put, Carol.

  2. Melissa Ward says:

    Thank you, Carol. We are “of that age” when these experiences with loved ones are all too frequent. Say what needs to be said before it’s too late!!

  3. Martha Ginn says:

    Carol, I have read and reread this post searching for the right words to say in response to your wise admonitions. When the words seem insignificant and not enough, I think–the words aren’t the message…the reaching out is. So I hope you feel the love and support of all of us who have read your touching tribute and know that you have given us more courage to get in touch/stay in touch even in the hard times.

  4. Being brave is always hard. The difficulty never diminishes, as you point out. Thank you for sharing how you went about pushing through to be there for Marion. It’s an important reminder for all of us who want to be there for someone we care about.

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