Relationships. We all have them. Friends. Family. Family of origin. Family of choice. Those that we share our deepest, darkest secrets. The same people who we tell our goofiest, most embarrassing moments, confident that if we ever want to re-live those moments, our friends will be right there with us.
There are hundreds of thousands of books about how to create them, save them, and even end those that are no longer important to us. The important thing is to have them and treasure them.
Muhammad Ali once said that “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not somethingyou learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.”
I am happy to say that I know the meaning of friendship.
My friend Susan has been diagnosed with cancer. The nasty tumor--she's shared photos courtesy of her surgeon, who, in my humble opinion, needs to stick with surgery and not consider a career in photography--is growing in a region near her lungs and heart. It is, according to Dr. Photographer, the same width and length of his hand.
Susan had her procedure Friday morning. She had faith and confident in the skills of Dr. P. She also had friends at the hospital waiting for her as she was wheeled into her room from recovery. It was those loving women who broke the news.
The tumor was too big to remove.
When I heard the news, I was reminded of Helen Keller's quote "“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”
To many, Susan may seem alone. Her beloved husband passed away years ago, her daughter lives across country, and her other daughter may not even recognize her own mother at this point due to mental illness. But being alone is hardly a way to describe Susan.
The next day, Susan's "Army of Women Friends" as her daughter lovingly refers to us, was ready to accomplish their mission. One drove Susan home and stayed the night. Another ran to the store and picked up prescriptions. A third delivered a homemade meal. OK, so I cheated and purchased dessert, but it's the thought that counts.
A changing of the 'guard' happened the following day and more meals were delivered.
Later this week, Susan will meet with her oncologist and together, they will work up a plan. A battle plan.
Susan will undergo treatments (chemo and radiation) to reduce the tumor and when appropriate, Dr. P. will do his thing again. In the meantime, a friend is looking into a permanent adoption for Susan's cat. Others will visit, bring food, drive her where she needs to go, and support her.
Most importantly, they will be a source of love and comfort. They will give of their strength so that Susan's fight against cancer is stronger than were she fighting alone.
Some of these friends are the same that rallied around Susan when her husband passed away suddenly. Others have been in her life only a short time. Regardless of length of time, it is the love they feel for her that's important.
In his book The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey, Henri Nouwen wrote “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
Susan's army consists of those kinds of friends. By supporting Susan, we support each other. We laugh together, we enjoy naughty humor, and we love each other.
And so, as we walk with our friend Susan in the dark world of battling cancer together, she is reminded that she is never alone. She has many, many dear friends who love her. Together, we will fight her disease.
We will do a lot for Susan because we know she'd do the same for each of us if need be.
As this post draws to a close, I'd like to share one more quote that seems befitting of my friend Susan who swore that she'd dine on steak and chocolate should her prognosis not be a lengthy one. It's from Linda Grayson, who wrote “There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”