Monday, January 5, 2009

On a Winter's Day In the Rain

I drove through campus at the end of this crazy Monday with mixed emotions. With the morning came the start of several classes in our department, an influx of nearly 70 people - excitement and confusion abound. The afternoon brought trepidation, the stomach churning that comes with the unknown. I was heading to visit a sick friend and, to be honest, I'm not very good at it. A coworker is faced with, not one but, two deadly diagnoses, either of which would be frightening. I'm a crier on a GOOD day so the emotions of standing at the side of a "sick bed" drain me. But old age has brought me to the realization that visiting the sick is not about me but about bringing comfort to someone who has been dealt a tough hand. I hope I'm up to the task of small talk and a positive outlook.

P has been on campus a little longer than my six years, the queen of our mailroom. I don't know her beyond our visits over piles of envelopes which have been regular and even daily at times, talking about families, often disagreeing about local events. She keeps a library of James Patterson books from which a number of us circulated the latest titles. She has been married for as long as I have with two grown sons and a young daughter, a middle-schooler who has been a joy to her parents but is now faced with a critically ill mom.

So I drove across town, frantically bumping through the music on my iPod to avoid anything that might bring tears. Finally... Santana! Thank you, Carlos.

I know I gave no comfort to her family and sat with P for only a few minutes since she wasn't feeling well. I brought her some chocolate for a time when she was feeling up to it and held her hand a bit. When I left, I was struck with the fact that, only two months ago, she was at work wondering if the nagging pain was a returning back issue or a recurring kidney stone. I wonder if I'm doing everything I can to assure the health of my family and even if there is any such assurance. Then the tears came.

My blog title came from "White Bird" which came to mind easily when I remembered listening to the song on her stereo in the mailroom and learning she was a big fan of David LaFlamme and his band, "It's a Beautiful Day". "White a golden cage...on a winter's the rain..... " So, I will say a prayer and listen to White Bird a few more times and hope that she has the strength to fight everything she is faced with.


Indie said...

I'm sure your visit meant a lot to her and I'm glad you overcame your reluctance and went.

I will never outlive my regret for being too afraid and selfish to face my aunt as she was dying of cancer. I was shocked by her appearance and so I "generously" offered to babysit all the little kids so everyone else could go to the hospital. She kept sending me her love. I was 18.

I wish someone had told me what you are very wisely telling yourself: that it's not about you but about the person who is ill and shut in.

Big City Poz said...

I always handle these things by educating myself as much as possible about the person's health problem. I've found that many people offer other kinds of support, but often times the ill person has few he can actually discuss his medical problem with in any factual detail--other than doctors and other health care providers and the occasional family member.

Plus, sometimes the ill person is not up to researching his health problems on the web. If he does research, he's often times too tired or medicated to fully understand everything.

Of course, this also usually prevents me from just crying or getting angry at the injustice of it all. My intelligence acts as a sort of shield from this.

This is not always a perfect approach. Last year I visited a friend who was suffering from HIV-related problems. Both he and his his family had been relying on me to translate what the doctors told them. Alas, my research indicated that at the very best he had one year to live and in all probability had two or three weeks. No doctor had told him this and I just carried this inside me. He died less than three weeks later.

None of this is to say that holding hands and sharing chocolate is not what's called for. You're a good friend for doing what you did. I hope your coworker recovers quickly.

Sandi said...

I'm sorry. It's so hard dealing with an illness especially with someone you care about. You want to be there for them but it's so hard to know what to say or do. You don't give yourself nearly enough credit because you have a very calming spirit. You always make me feel better :-).

beachcomber said...

Thanks guys. I think all of us who have gone to visit are afraid of stepping over the line, between cheering up our co-worker and intruding on family grief. I appreciate your kind and encouraging words.