My mom is dying. Like, really dying. We just got the news on Friday that she probably has between 3 and 6 months. (Read her thoughts on it here).
I know what you're thinking. Thank God it's not me. Then, what do I say to her? How do I help her?
The usual comforts seem meaningless, but you're not equipped to help me. You're not a registered psychiatrist. Why is she telling me this? What if I say the wrong thing? I can't do this.
Trust me, I get it. Been there, felt that. I've watched friends whose parents have fought the same fight, but lost, sooner than my mom has. And I've had those same thoughts. God, it's so sad. I feel for her/him. But, oh, thank God it's not my mom.
But you can help me. I don't need a lot.
If the sun don't shine on me today
Listen to me when I want to talk. It may not be very often, or it may not be at all. It might be about stupid things, or it might seem really heavy. You don't need to say anything. Just listen.
Sit with me when I don't. It's rare, but sometimes I just want to cry. Sit next to me. Sit across from me. (Please don't) sit on me. Hold my hand, touch my shoulder. Put 10 feet between us. But sit with me and let me be sad. Sometimes we don't need to talk.
Go on an adventure with me. The best medicine for me is living life. So if I call and tell you I want to do something fun, let's do something fun. Even if it's just wandering around, getting lost in our own city. Let's go look at the stars, try a new beer, listen to some music or look at a cool view.
Don't ask me about it. That's not to say you can't ask questions. But if you ask me every day, I'll probably shut down. When I'm ready to talk, I will. It might not be to you, but I'll talk. I'm not hiding, I'm just not ready.
I get by with a little help from my friends
Don't treat me like glass. I can take it. If you're mad at me, tell me. Have a problem with me, tell me. You're not adding to my stress. This isn't like anything I've ever experienced. But I can take whatever anger, frustration, grief you have with me. It feels normal to deal with daily life. Don't treat me like glass. I won't break.
Help me do something crazy. There will be a day when I'm really angry. And I want to do something crazy. Go with me. Trust me. Keep me from breaking the law (or my hand). Help me find something to punch, bite, kick; let me scream, let me rage. I'll need some sort of tether to the real world when it hits.
Don't offer things you can't give. If you tell me to call you, mean it. If you say you want to be there for me, do it. Don't offer comforts you can't give, and don't make promises you can't keep. I don't have time to deal with it. If you can't be there for me, just tell me.
Treat me like I'm normal. I haven't changed. You don't need to worry about protecting me from other stressors. So come to me with your daily issue. Trust me, I like to solve problems. Talk to me. Use me. Let me be your sounding board. I don't need your protection. If I can't handle it, I'll let you know.
You say it best when you say nothing at all
Let's be real, there's not much you can say that will make a difference. It's going to be hard. It's going to be long. It'll be exhausting, frustrating, sad, depressing, unthinkable, indecipherable. But I'll get through it. We'll all get through it. The best thing you can do for me, or anyone else going through this, is be there. Really and truly be there. And if you can't, be honest. I won't hate you for not being able to bear this burden. No one should have to. You're not a bad friend for not wanting to, or being afraid to.
And at the end of the day, I'm so incredibly blessed for these past 5 years with my mom. I thank God every day for bringing me through everything I, and my family, have been through. We're closer because of it. I'm a different person, a person I like, a person I (most of the time) respect because of it. I know myself, and I've had to face a lot of demons because of it. I have friends that I love, who truly love me. I've cut poisonous relationships out of my life to deal with this. I've focused time, effort and energy on the things that were important and I've learned so much. And when this is all over, I'll be a better person for knowing my mom. For the time I've spent with her. And I'll have the greatest gift of all, being able to live for a higher purpose. Carrying her with me while I do it. Celebrating life and enjoying adventures in her name and spirit.
So be there with me. Stand next to me. Stand behind me. Stand in front of me. Hell, stand hip to hip, knee to knee, elbow to elbow with me, or ten feet away. All I need is for you to be there.