I’d put this in the Pit but I’m not mad enough yet…just puzzled.
Lillith Fair and I are going to a sort of pre-funeral today. One of the older women from our church has recently (like a month ago) been diagnosed with cancer, and she doesn’t have much time left. She and her husband were planning on a big celebration next summer for their 50th anniversary, but since it is unlikely she will be alive then, they decided to have a small open house for the celebration of the beginning of their 50th year of marriage, while she is still strong enough and at home. I see it as a chance to say goodbye to her friends and aquaintances, and while we were not close, I feel I should at least put in an appearance. I expect it to be an upbeat, emotional time…she has always been a bit of a pistol, and I don’t think she’d be doing this if she didn’t feel up to it.
So I mentioned to my mom, who is her age, that I was going, and she said that several of the other women from their women’s group…people who have been much closer friends with her…said they weren’t going to go because they want to remember her as she was a month ago, healthy and feisty. She has lost a lot of weight she couldn’t afford to lose and is quite frail now, and they don’t want to remember her like this.
I am so disappointed in them, and I told my mother so. This is their opportunity to give her a kiss and a hug while she can still feel it, and they don’t want to go. They’ll all be there for her funeral, but they won’t go help her celebrate her life before it ends. These are all women in their 70’s and 80’s who have been through tons of rough stuff in their lifetimes, but they “don’t want to remember her like this”. She’s not disfigured, or deformed, just thinner and frailer.
I’m 47 now, but back in 1991, one of my best friends from high school died suddenly from a brain tumor a month after we had seen her at a Christmas party where she had complained about being unwell for several weeks. If we had known at that moment that her days were numbered in weeks rather than decades, that party would have been a celebration of all she had meant to us, and all the unresolved problems the two of us had could have been erased. I think she would have gone to her end knowing without a doubt that she had been loved, and would be missed, and that would have been a comfort to her. When I think of the multitudes who came to her funeral sobbing, I have always wished they could have been with us that last party, listening to her wisecracks and sharing her stories.
Would you take the opportunity to say goodbye, not at a hospital bedside, but in at atmosphere of celebration? Or would you cling to your memories and ignore someone in their final days, just to preserve some picture in your mind?