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What words can you possibly say to someone who is dying???

 

This is something that’s been on my mind for the past 48 hours. After hearing sad news about my friend with Leukemia, I’ve had an inner battle of sorts: do I visit her or not?

Such a hard decision to make.

I’ve only known her since February, but in those 5 short months I have grown to love and respect my friend for staying so strong and upbeat during what she’s going through.

Diagnosed less than a year ago with Leukemia, admitted to the hospital in January, and discharged in May after doing all they could, my friend has been such a trooper through it all. She’s made so many new friends while being at Duke, myself being one of them.

The first time I visited her I took my dad along with me. We popped in for a few minutes introducing ourselves and telling her if she needed anything not to hesitate to call. It was an awkward first visit.

The second time I visited her, I took her Chick-fil-a. We sat in her small hospital room eating that greasy goodness together, and I shared stories from college, Peru, volunteering. The awkwardness was gone.

The third visit, Dad and I took her to see the helicopters on the roof of the hospital. She wasn’t even allowed to go outside, but we snuck her out. Standing in the sunshine on that unseasonably warm March day, she was recharged, energized. We walked back to her room talking about all sorts of things, and when the nurses asked where we had been, she answered, “the lobby!” Whoops… 🙂

The fourth visit, I brought salads for lunch, and while we ate, a junior volunteer came and sang “Rolling in the Deep” to us.

After that, I made it a weekly event- leaving work early to spend a few hours in her room, sometimes two or three times a week. One day we walked around the hospital and got smoothies from a coffee shop that turned both of our mouths red. Dad took us out on the roof multiple times to warm up and bask in the sunshine that she never got much of. I painted her nails all sorts of bright, fun colors. I met her parents and her grandparents. I took her a Sour Apple snocone and watched as she painstakingly spooned it into her mouth, smiling as it cooled her. I saw the bad days and the good days.

When I visited her before she was discharged, I was nervous. I was sure it was the last time she would see the inside of the hospital, and see me. As I waited for the elevator, my hands shook… what would I talk about with her? Should I sit and tell stories or ask her questions about her journey home? In the end we simply talked… I told stories and she told me about her fears of going home. By the time I left I was so drained- emotionally and spiritually. Seeing someone suffer yet stay faithful is both encouraging and disheartening. It always makes one wonder “why?” I cried all the way home.

While she had been at home the past few weeks, we talked off and on. A text message here and there asking about how one another was doing. I never asked how much longer she thought she had, although the question plagued my mind and heart.

A little over a week ago, she went to Duke for a checkup by her doctor. She was immediately admitted and began treatment for pneumonia. Things weren’t looking good. All last week I debated going to see her. “I’ll go tonight,” I told myself. I never went.

As the days have passed, her mom has been sending out email updates. And each one I get makes my heart hurt even more. She can hardly breathe on her own, and she’s in so much pain. Yesterday, they decided to transport her home in the next day or two via ambulance and simply let her die at home.

Die.

Tears are brimming in my eyes as I type that word, as I think about it. My friend is going to die. Months ago it didn’t seem as real as it does now.

Now back to the inner debate- to go visit her or not.

After some encouraging words from a friend, spending time reading Romans 8:18-30, and praying about it, I plan on visiting her one last time. It’s going to be hard. I’m just hoping she lasts until I can be there to say goodbye. Working at UNC and having a long to-do list today isn’t helping that situation at all. (I won’t be back in Durham until 9pm or so!)

When I do end up making it there, what do I do? What can I possibly say? How can I be upbeat and encouraging when all I want to do is cry about it? How can I console her family during this hard time? How do I hide the tears from everyone and stay strong?

 

All of that is on my mind today despite my busy schedule and to-do list. Prayers & encouraging words are appreciated.

 

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