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.