If there is one thing about the nature of mourning and grieving – it puts things in perspective. A year before CrabbyCancerMan was diagnosed, a man with whom I had a passing acquaintanceship through our congregation was diagnosed with lung cancer. The man had been rarely ill, had never smoked, and yet, here it was. I was heartbroken for them – two young children at home, and a third on the way. I reached out to his family when it happened, but as we weren’t that close and the family had others who were helping them, I was happy to know that they had the care they needed.
A year later and a few weeks into CCM’s diagnosis, we sat together at the oncology clinic, waiting for him to have his labs drawn. The clinic was under renovation, and there were only two chairs. My husband, ever the gentleman, offered one to me. When I sat down, the man next to me looked at me, and said “Hey, I think I know you!” We quickly figured out that we did, and in the early weeks, he and his wife gave us some much-needed moral support – tips about the particular medical group we were working with, and how to handle some of the paperwork. As a bonus, he worked in the same field as CCM, so they were able to talk a little bit of the logistics of how to work through this.
After a while we lost touch. I thought of them frequently, but as time wore on, I didn’t call because I was afraid of what I’d hear. I was afraid the news wouldn’t be good, that I would be calling during a bad week in the cycle. I was afraid that if the news was bad, they would think I was calling just to gawk.
With CrabbyCancerMan’s passing, I have desperately wanted to know how this acquaintence is doing. He shared the same doctor, but of course with privacy laws being the way they are, I couldn’t ask him. I wanted the news, good or bad – if it was bad, I now had more time and experience to help. If it was good, I would be relieved for them.
Today I picked up the phone. I was trembling slightly as I dialed the number. His wife picked up, and I could hear the children in the background. I asked her how everything was going and she said “Fine, just fine! I can’t really talk because I’m flying solo with the kids – M is out golfing.” I could feel a part of me release and float away – a part made up of fear, and empathetic pity. I was so relieved for her – that her husband was not only surviving, but thriving, and that she had not experienced what I was going through, and possibly would not, not for a long time, or maybe only in ripe old age.
When I hung up the phone, my heart made a blessing of gratitude.