The thank-you note in today’s mail read, “We want to thank you for all you’ve done for us during our trying time – especially the hospital visits (and home), the notes and phone calls. You’ve been a great source of comfort, and we are ever grateful.”
The note was from the mother of a friend of mine. My friend has MS. The disease has destroyed her. She is 10 years younger than me, and now bed ridden. She cannot see, cannot talk, and is fed through a peg tube. She died one day while her mother was walking the dog around the block. Her mother came home to an ambulance parked in her driveway. A caregiver had called 911. The EMTs resuscitated my friend, and then, transported her to the local hospital. I visited her there. That is the last time I’ve seen my friend because I cannot bear to look at her any more.
Ten years ago before the MS, my friend wwore black heels to work and her favorite skirt was red wool. She liked to wear a red lipstick that matched the skirt. That person left and was replaced by a debilitated speechless body. I need to go see my friend, if only for her mother’s sake, but I don’t. Her mother says when I call and they put me on speaker phone, my friend’s eyes widen, and she knows who I am.
The thank you note from my friend’s mother came on the heels of her husband’s and my friend’s father’s death. I had mailed a sympathy card the week prior. The card was one of those generic Hallmark pieces of faux solace that I can’t remember because they all say the same thing, “The sunset is a blaze with reds and yellows. The flowers bloom. You are dead. I am sorry.” And then, there is some inncuous picture on the front that is supposed to remind us how wonderful life is.
My friend’s mother included the obituary of her husband, and my friend’s father in her thank you note. It is the best obit I have ever read, and I spend a good deal of time reading obits. It said, “Age 83, passed away peacefully. Born in Ketchikan Alaska, fourth in a family of twelve. He provided for the family and worked construction before moving to San Francisco and becoming a computer programmer, then systems analyst. He was an excellent marksman, self-taught historian and exceptional photographer. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, his children, and his brother and sister-in-law. His love and sense of humor will be greatly missed.”
I need to call my friend’s mother tomorrow and thank her for her card, but I will not. I will not tell her it was the best obit I have ever read. I will not tell her I miss my friend. I will not tell her I am not a good friend. I will not tell her that her daughter will die in the next year because she cannot go on like she is. I will not offer comfort. I will dwell on on what I am not going to do tomorrow until my head hurts. I will curse like a sailor, and walk the dog in the fog that is so thick, people will declare it is raining.