Saying Goodbye

My sweet niece is a wonderful person, the kind of person everyone wants for a friend and she has a bazillion friends. She keeps her friends, too, and tends them like a beautiful garden. When she moves on -- from a school or a job or a whatever -- unlike most of us, the friendships she has made there continue. Her Facebook page is plastered with a bazillion names, some of which I remember from her grade-school days. When I'm with her, which isn't often enough, her conversation is full of references to this person or that person, and while often I'm not sure exactly who she is referring to, I nod, and smile, and go along with her because I know the person she is telling me about is one lucky person: he or she has Susan for a friend.

About four or so years ago I started hearing one name often enough that I could remember and keep track. The name was that of a long-time friend, perhaps going back to high school. And this woman had the misfortune of having been stricken with an unusual and difficult-to-treat cancer. A cancer of the appendix. She went in and out of several hospitals, even traveling out of state to a place where her disease was better known and understood. Susan was right there, providing love, support and prayer, going to Maryland to visit. There were times when the belief was that the disease may be conquered, and times when the prognosis was less optimistic.

And now, seemingly all at once, it is nearly over. Her friend is on hospice care, with a matter of a few days remanning. Last night Susan went to visit for one last time.

How does one do it? Visit someone, knowing you are saying goodbye for ever, knowing that she will die very, very soon?

I remember so clearly saying "goodbye" to my uncle, a kind and generous man with a ready laugh, the last time he came to my house for dinner before moving across the country. We stood in the hall, both of us having trouble letting the evening end, both of us knowing we would never see each other again. It was so hard. And Elmer wasn't dying; he was moving to be close to his daughter and her family, who could spend more time and care for him better than I could.

My niece is very much on my mind, in my heart today. And my eyes fill up with tears when I try to imagine what she is feeling, when I try to think about how she was able to make that visit.

Soon Susan will have a bazillion-minus-one friends. And I hope they will be there for her. The way she has always been for them.


Mrs. Goodneedle said…
Both you and your niece are equally blessed, with one other. Prayers for her and for her precious friend.
LizA. said…
You really touched home with this post. Back in January the VW community gathered on an unusually bright (unusual for the Pacific Northwest in winter), blustery day to visit with a beloved, dear friend who was losing his battle with multiple myeloma. It was so very hard to see a once vibrant man confined to a wheelchair. Less than a month later he lost his battle and in 1-1/2 weeks we will all gather at a local fairgrounds for a memorial VW potluck/campout and tell Daryl stories and mourn our friend.
Barbara Anne said…
There isn't a good time or way to say good-bye and your post illustrates one way your niece Susan is a rare and wonderful person: so many are so afraid to say the wrong thing that they say or write nothing at all. Susan gave the gift of her presence to her friend as well as her love, words, and shared memories.

Two others in my circle are in hospice care and this quotation came to my mind for them. For Susan's friend, here it is -

“When you have come to the edge
Of all light that you know
And are about to drop off into the darkness
Of the unknown,
Faith is knowing
One of two things will happen:
There will be something solid to stand on or
You will be taught to fly”
― Patrick Overton

Quiltdivajulie said…
Blogger ate my first comment ...

Sending hugs and prayers to you, your niece, her friend and family - I wish the world would stop rushing and bickering long enough to remember what REALLY matters!
Janet O. said…
Difficult times. Good-byes to those we love are hard, no matter the reason.
Ms. Jan said…
She is an amazing person. Love and hugs coming her way.
Karla said…
How hard for your niece. Saying goodbye is so hard and so loving at the same time. Amongst the chaos of feelings, death can be beautiful. I have witnessed that, when I went to say goodbye to my dear, dear friend. All around him was fear and sadness, lingering and holding on. Then I realized what was going on and went to him, lovingly, and warmly stayed with him, massaging him and letting him know what a terrific person/friend/Son/Brother/Uncle he is, thanking him for being him. Gently letting him know it is ok, we will be ok, it is time for him to go. I massaged his hands and feet. He opened his eyes, smiled and passed on to his next journey. God was in that room.

God will be in the room with your Niece's friend. I will pray for her, I will pray for all.

PS. Your niece sounds like she learned a lot from you.
Anonymous said…
It's incredibly difficult. Fran and I did it by ignoring that it was our last week together in this life. We laughed and joked and maybe talked more seriously about God than usual, but we'd often talked about him before. It wasn't out of mind, only out of sight.