When someone we know has broken her arm, we send an optimistic get-well card that conveys our good wishes for quick and complete bone mending.
If a friend has the flu, we commiserate and say we hope he feels better soon.
But what do we offer up when we learn someone has been diagnosed with a debilitating disease from which there is no recovery? And what kind of card can we send when we learn that someone we know has been pronounced terminally ill?
Too often we say nothing because we don’t know what to say.
I remember five years ago when my friend Jonathan, diagnosed with terminal cancer, came to the home office to sign papers, turn in equipment, and say his goodbyes to people he had worked with for many years. When he reached my office toward the end of the day, I enfolded him in my arms. Letting go, I felt compelled to say something.
“Jon, I’d be honored do a Bible reading at your funeral.”
I’ll never forget the look on his face. At first I thought it was shock because the two of us hadn’t really been friends. Then I realized that clearly he was relieved that someone had verbally acknowledged that he was dying.
It’s difficult to talk about a life that will be ending. And it seems even harder when we know that the person’s final days will be marked with extreme pain.
I realize that each person has his/her own level of privateness and that not everyone would want to or choose to talk about the soon-to-be-end of their life.
But if I were ever to be in that position, I would hate for people to tiptoe around the subject. I would not want people to send me cheery “get well quickly” or “feel better soon” cards if that was not a possibility. I’d rather hear the truth—“I know you’re not going to get better and I’m so sorry.”
And then I’d want to hear what I meant to them. “Because of the time that you…When you took the time to…You were a tremendous influence on my life because…”
Over this summer I attended a hands-on healing service for a dear friend. Throughout the service the priest recounted all of her strengths and virtues, the unselfish way she has lived her life, the role model she has been for the rest of us.
At the close of the service, one by one each person went up to our friend as she knelt at the altar. We touched her head and whispered something special to her.
Afterward she shared what a moving experience this service was for her. She was quick to explain that her tears were ones of joy. “I wish everyone could experience a life-affirming event like this. When someone is gone from the earth, it’s too late. How wonderful to hear this when I’m still alive!”
When someone you know has a serious health issue, especially if the outlook does not look rosy, remember my friend’s pure elation. Summon your courage and speak up from the heart.
An aside: Finding a card for someone who is terminally ill isn’t easy. Although I haven’t ordered from them yet, I did find a site called GreetingCardUniverse.com that has a nice selection of cards for Hospice patients. Last night they noted a promotion called Fall189 where the cards are $1.89 each if you buy a minimum of five cards, and there’s free shipping for ten cards. I do not receive any commission from purchases. I’m simply passing along what appears to be a site that offers cards for a wide range of circumstances.