Here we are again, learning how to say goodbye, even our final goodbyes. In the previous article I shared about my sister, Paula, saying goodbye to a dear friend who passed away from a long battle with cancer. Her friend was one of the most resilient of friends during her time with us. Only those who have made the cancer journey could ever understand more fully the depth and courage required to fight the good fight.
No matter whether a person wins the battle here or wins it on the other side, how do you say goodbye to a dear friend? What do you say before they are gone? What do you say in the final days and hours? How has your own life and faith been challenged? How do you share your love and faith while they are still with you?
In the previous article, I shared my perspective on these questions as I witnessed my sister walking with her friend through the years. Right now, Paula is recuperating from nine long, committed months caring for her friend. Yet, she has offered to share her thoughts in part 2 of this article. With my sister’s experience being so fresh on her mind and heart, I felt these questions would be best answered by her as well. Let’s hear what she gained from knowing this special person called, Lydia.
First, Paula wanted to say this about her friend, Lydia. “My friend fought cancer for 5 1/2 years through surgeries, radiation, years of chemo all while holding down a full time job and volunteer positions. She was the strongest woman I have ever known with great beauty inside and out, an amazing mind and memory, a beautiful voice, multi-lingual – a woman of many gifts.”
With the first two questions, “How do you say goodbye to a dear friend?” and “What do you say before they are gone?” Paula reflected over her friend’s final months, wondering what else could she do? Here is her response. “Yet, what could we do? The answer is simple – be there, show up, sit with her, share your heart with her, be real. No placating words were spoken as they were meaningless. Showing up wasn’t always easy. Leaving my husband for a few days every week left household chores, maintenance and upkeep on my home front in disarray. Little got done for nine months. Yet I looked forward to going until the last month or so as she began to deteriorate more, pain management was difficult to maintain, and she became difficult to be around at times. That was the time that commitment, faith and love were challenged the most. My other friends who didn’t know Lydia, supported and encouraged me to keep showing up.”
Then comes the next question, What do you say in the final days and hours? In the midst of witnessing Lydia’s final days and hours, Paula struggled with her own thoughts of wanting to stay home. Wasn’t what she had done enough? In Paula’s word, “I was appalled at myself for wanting to stay home. I did continue to visit regularly and was privileged to spend the last 3 1/2 hours of her life with her and share this prayer with her – ‘Come Lord Jesus and take my friend home.’ I spoke that phrase several times over the course of that afternoon telling her how much she is loved, what she meant in my life and then putting her in charge of celebratory reunions when her friends and family join her in heaven.”
With the last two questions but surely not the final ones to ponder, “How has your own life and faith been challenged?” and “How do you share your love and faith while they are still with you?” Paula reflected, “In getting to know her over the years, I have come to understand that exterior beauty is not always a blessing as it brings unwanted attention, and in her case abuse. It was a struggle to stay alive yet she managed to give to others throughout her life. So to see her continue to struggle and endure much pain in her cancer battle was especially difficult for her friends and family.”
Upon Lydia final hours Paula closes her thoughts here about her very special friend. “Lydia liked the song, A Bridge Over Troubled Water – I played it for her. She was often the bridge for me in gaining understanding of the trials of my life, giving me perspective, and helping me to connect the root causes of a situation with my response. She was an amazing lady, loved and respected by many and will be missed for the rest of my life. Most importantly, she will continue to inspire and motivate me to make a difference in others’ lives the way she did throughout her life.”
If you are struggling to know what to do for a dear friend like Lydia, I hope this two-part article helped you gain comfort and understanding on how to be there for your friend in whatever way you can. And most of all, dear reader, if you are struggling and taking a journey like Lydia was, I pray you too will have friends like my sister at your side loving you and caring for you.