“There’s life after cancer.”
My friend and soul-sister, Mary Ann Wasil Nilan, reminds me every day, “There’s life right in the middle of cancer.”
And to share that life with someone you love whose health has been challenged, whose illness might even be terminal, is among the most intimate and sacred invitations one person can give another.
So make it count. Begin with mindfulness. Be present, fully. This is the first great gift your loved one is offering you: the chance to be aware, attentive and appreciative of all that matters most about our wild, tumultuous, exuberant and heart rendering human experience. Once invited, enter into the fears, victories, suffering and nobility of your cherished friend’s illness. Do not let the paradox of the privilege diminish the truth of the privilege. Don’t procrastinate. Be authentic and vulnerable. Don’t let your own fear of inadequacy as a care giver delay or prevent you from being present. Your time, focused and loving, is the primary gift you can extend. Take cues from your friend. Listen. Allow for emotional consonance. Don’t talk her out of her sadness in any given moment. Don’t dampen her joy. Don’t attempt to distract her from what she is experiencing unless she asks that of you as a momentary respite from the cascade of thoughts and feelings swirling within her. Be patient. Be loving. Be grateful. Have lots of coffee, or chocolate, or tissues, or embarrassingly humorous stories or pink gerbera daisies or heartfelt prayer at your disposal at any given time. Be her advocate.
You are on holy ground, bearing witness to the intimacy she has extended to you to accompany her through her health challenge. Whatever may come, there is life right in the middle of illness. Honor that life, share that life, celebrate that life, with your full presence. And then you will know that healing, like grace, comes in many different, often miraculous ways and is extended to care giver and receiver alike.
“Thank you” to my soul-sister, Kerry Alys Robinson, my first guest-blogger, and cherished co-captain of my “healing team.” In addition to her “ministry of presence,” Kerry is the Executive Director at the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management in Washington, DC, and author of the brand new blog, “Love in Ordinary Time.”