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An Attrition of Acquaintances

Around the age of twenty-six a close friend, Bruce got cancer. I have "known" death from an early age and even more by twenty-six.

My dad's dad died when I was thirteen. At eleven, I still remember the call Mom got from our grandmother, Sitto, when we lived on Luke about Giddo. Sitto told Mom that Giddo got hit by a truck. Then, after two years surviving through a coma, he died.

However, even earlier, one of my best friends died of leukemia. Maria. We were both eleven. I remember sobbing for a half hour then suddenly stopping.

At sixteen, another close girlfriend Robin got killed in an automobile accident. Whenever I think about Robin, I think about how we soaked girlfriends' bras with water then put them in the freezer at sleepovers with her. Mom never would have allowed us to be mean like that at our house. But Robin's parents were more laissez faire in their child-rearing ways. At Robin's, we could eat cold pizza and spaghetti for breakfast. I loved Robin. She was one of the prettiest girls I knew.

Another friend, a high school bestie who, for some reason I cannot bring her name into my databanks, died of cystic fibrosis at the age of nineteen. I think about her often and remember how she and her mom taught me how good scrambled eggs are with strawberry jam. Debbie Cole! That was her name.

We mourn losses in different ways as we age. Death means different things to different people and their maturity, whether young or old.

But loss comes in different forms. Not just death. It comes when someone you love moves away. Or you move away. Or someone succeeds in a different way that takes you out of their circle. Or you get a divorce. Divorce creates a hole in your heart so different from death because the person you divorce from isn't dead. They have only abandoned you or you them.

So, when my friend Bruce died, my friend who taught me how to play Heart of Gold on the guitar, my friend who, when I asked him what he was thinking about, would say, "I'm contemplating the existence of my belly button." It is this friend who I couldn't bring myself to visit him while he spent the end of his suffering with his cancer. Not until the day he was expected to die. I abandoned him for six months. I don't think he knew I visited that night he died. I don't know if he felt the kiss on his cheek. His mother knew. She also knew I hadn't been around for a while. I don't know if, in his death state, he remembers me at the window staring out at Phoenix in the dark. The thing is, I couldn't bring myself to visit him between expected to die and death.

With Bruce, I didn't know how what to do--how to act, what to say. I was young and scared.

As caregivers, you have probably seen something similar with friends and family. They don't know what to do and because they are either unsure or scared, they avoid.

Since Bob's aphasia diagnosis, only a few friends have come by to see him. By 2019, only two of his best friends showed up inside a year's time. And between then and now, five years, two other friends of Bob's have come over. His daughter, Ashley comes. His son comes. His cousin comes. My sister comes often.

Rarely do people call because Bob can't get words out.

My girlfriends come over all the time and entertain him. They joke around and we all talk about work and church and dogs and cats. Normal stuff.

Bob enjoys seeing other people too. I can't imagine how boring it is for him to see only me, 24/7. Sounds like a jail sentence! But, when we have my friends over, he laughs in all the right spots. He sings when I sing. It's not good singing but, hmm, is it possibly better now than before? Could be. I'm joking, of course. Bob could never carry a tune. But I would give my arms and legs to hear him sing again, to talk again because he understands everything that's going on around him.

Still, I understand that fear of the unknown. I understand not wanting to see a friend fade away. I understand the urge to avoid. So, there's only grace here at the Wingate house because I know firsthand how it feels to see someone you love not "normal," or the way he or she used to be.

So, expect attrition of friends and family. Although braving a storm can be wildly rewarding, noble, and not scary after all. Still, the storm itself tends to keep people locked down, safe inside.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” ~Luke 8

It's up to us, the caregivers, not to judge friends and family who cannot bring themselves to visit. Seeing someone sick--a person who used to be so vibrant, fun, and active--is a heartbreaking experience. So, don't expect people to visit. Everyone is trying to overcome their own hurdles. Plus, expectations can cripple a relationship. Expectations put tons onto the other person but also set you up for tons of disappointment. When we find the grace to forgive, we get one step closer to Jesus.

And, for those of you wondering about the painting? That's a Rembrandt. Isn't it a spectacular depiction of the storm on the Sea of Galilee?

God bless you all.

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Susan, Though we have never met, I am always moved by your emotional sharing of your life. I relate in only distant ways, but I am confident you bless many lives besides your beloved, Bob's life.


Jo szcz
Jo szcz
Apr 01

Even though he won't remember me or even who the heck I am, please give Bob a kiss on the cheek from me, 'cause I remember him and the way he accepted me into his home when I visited. I think about you both often and pray for you daily; that YAH gives you His strength and courage through this challenging time. I love you both! 😘

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