Friendship Can Take You to Unexpected Places
A couple of months had passed since I last saw my good friend, Larry (not his real name). Our latest meeting was for coffee when we lingered over our cups catching up with each other’s news and trying to solve the world’s problems. Before parting company, Larry and I began planning our next get-together or maybe to go watch a football game.
Remembering our conversation, I had recently e-mailed Larry to suggest another coffee at some time. A week or so passed without a reply. “No problem”, I thought. “He’s a busy guy with his career and his family”. I followed up with another e-mail.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t Larry who replied to my second e-mail - it was his wife. She explained that Larry had been more tired than usual and felt some unusual numbness on the left side of his face. “Maybe we should get a doctor to check you out?”, she suggested. Going to the local hospital was a wise decision. The diagnosis? A tumor requiring surgery.
Surgery day came … and with it, some bad news. The tumor could not be removed. Larry was to remain in the hospital until a hospice bed became available. A hospice?!?! I could not believe what I’d just read. Larry is around my age, in good shape, doesn’t smoke or drink heavily, and didn’t seem to be suffering from any severe health concerns.
While I do have previous experience with caregiving as my mother had Parkinson’s disease and Leukemia and my father had Alzheimer’s disease, I wasn’t prepared for this news. I have helped and supported my aging parents but Larry is much younger. My “processing” this news required my seeing Larry so I arranged a time to visit. While driving to the hospice, my mind raced … what would I say to him? There was nothing that really sounded right (anything I dreamed up sounded so fake and/or “canned”), so I decided it might be best to not rehearse the perfect greeting and conversation starter. I arrived at the hospice, parked, and walked inside.
The front desk nurse on-duty cheerfully greeted me, pointed me in the direction of Larry’s room and I proceeded down the hall. I seem to remember walking slowly … maybe in the hopes of delaying facing the truth? When reaching the room, I found the door slightly ajar. I gently knocked and swung the door open. Larry was inside – sitting in a wheelchair and covered with a blanket. He glanced in my direction. “Larry”, I stammered. “Rick!”, he responded. “Thank you for coming to see me”. I had no idea of how he would respond but I was relieved that he recognized me. We sat and talked for some time … he shared his story of how he arrived at the hospice and pointed out a collection of ball caps on a shelf behind me. Larry had long been a sports nut and each cap had been personally delivered by a visiting friend. I was pleased to hear that he found the hospice comfortable and how he appreciated it being so close to his family.
I was honored to be one of Larry’s many visitors and to see firsthand how he continued living life in hospice. It seems, Larry and I won’t be cheering on the local football team at the stadium, but we will be watching games on the television in his room – a new ball cap from me sharing good company on the shelf behind him.
About the author ~
Rick Lauber is a published book author and an established freelance writer. Lauber has written two books, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide (both published by Self-Counsel Press) as valuable resources for prospective, new, and current caregivers. He is also very pleased to have been twice-selected as a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul (Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas! and Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat). Lauber has also served, on a voluntary basis, on the Board of Directors for Caregivers Alberta.