I’ve been quiet here for the past few days. Not because I haven’t been checking in or keeping my Google reader busy while following my fellow bloggers. No, I’ve been quiet because I haven’t known how to write what I knew needed to be written.
The weeks leading up to the first day of school are among the busiest of the year for me. Schools deal with two things that are very important to people, their children and their money. Anything that goes wrong tends to be exacerbated by the intense emotion associated with our kids. And, yes, I know all about the tax dollars that are going to support my salary…actually, I pay them too.
By Friday afternoon, I announced to our office staff that we were now officially a “no problem” zone for the remainder of the work week. Proclaiming that didn’t actually make it happen, but I thought it was worth a try. And, Monday is another day. A day that likely will dawn much calmer now that classes are firmly in session.
And, yes, school will go on as usual. But some things will never be the same. All the while I dealt with the petty complaints and annoyances that are a part of life in a school district, the only thing I could really think about was the news being delivered a few miles away.
The news a father shared with his three young daughters. Three young daughters who soon will experience what until now they’ve only feared. Because, there across town, my friend is officially dying. I celebrated her last birthday with her a few months ago, and, now, we know it really will be her last. And 41 years is far, far, too short a time to live. Too short a time to love your children and your husband.
Though intellectually I knew this would come over a year ago, it doesn’t make it any easier to comprehend now that the time is here. And, it doesn’t make it any easier to know what the right thing to do is. How to best “be there” for the family, as they begin a new stage of the illness, one that involves the finality of no more treatments and the involvement of hospice care.
I find myself at a loss for words. And questions like, “How are you?” seem silly and almost condescending. What is her husband supposed to say to that?
So, I do that which I hope plays to my strengths. I organize–food and rides for the kids, opportunities for fundraisers to offset some of the rising medical expenses. I can do that. I also make an effort to speak to her husband, who is also a friend and a colleague, about things that have nothing to do with cancer or death. Because few people do that now. He has become the man whose wife is dying. Just as his girls have become the ones whose mother is dying.
And that’s not what my friend would want. She’d want us all to go on, to enjoy life, to smile. It’s just going to be awfully hard to do that without her around to share it.
*For anyone experiencing similar challenges, two sites have helped make the support community possible for my friend and her family. First, caringbridge.org allowed first her, and now her husband, to keep everyone updated on her fight against cancer. Second, lotsahelpinghands.com provides an easy efficient way to organize meals, household tasks, rides, and anything else the family needs. This site allowed people who wanted to help but didn’t know quite how to jump in without the family having to coordinate it all. Both sites are an example of how technology can help bring us together rather than isolating us.