I have a special friend who is slowly leaving our special group of friends. The situation she is in is truly breaking my heart. All of this came to a reality shocker after the holidays.
As a group, the twelve to sometimes twenty of us, have grown extremely close. Our blending is interesting. Let me see, we have widows, widowers, divorcees, singles and of course the rarest of sorts — my husband and I. I say we are the rarest because Phil and I are — shall we say — interesting. He is 1,000% my opposite.
Back to scene — and the reason for this blog today. On New Year’s Eve, most of the group got together to ring in the new year quietly. After we all were gathered, several of us noticed how quiet our ‘friend’ Elizabeth was — note here –Elizabeth is not her real name. Elizabeth appeared a bit distant. Most of us thought she was annoyed with us, or simply wanted to be alone, as I do many times. Nevertheless, we continued to joke and tease never recognizing something was wrong. Eight days later the phone rang late at night. When I took the call, tears filled my eyes.
“Elizabeth is in the hospital,” another friend said. My heart pounded as I realized my suspicions were correct; however, never did I realize how correct I was.
Now, it is March. Elizabeth is at home now, resting and living the last of her days. Ever so slowly, I am recognizing how precious life is, and how quickly this precious gift called life can change. In the blink of an eye, something can happen to change things. I visit with Elizabeth at least once weekly now. Originally, I wanted to visit every other day, but with each visit, I see something slipping away. A vacant stare. Inability to walk around without the danger and chance of her falling. Silence. Although I try to carry a conversation with her, I cannot. Elizabeth looks at me and I can visualize the wheels of her mind attempting to download information — like a computer downloading something, only to lock up and freeze. These are the actions of Elizabeth now.
With each visit, I strive to build the puzzle for Elizabeth. The foundation of the puzzle, the framework, is there, but the pieces of the puzzle are not fitting or interlocking like I pray for them to blend together. With each visit, I tell myself to pray harder for a miracle, and when I get home, I find myself wanting to scream. “God, are you listening? Elizabeth needs you. I need you. Our group needs you to grant us a miracle. Her precious grandchildren need you, along with her family. We need a miracle, God. We can’t let go! Please give us a miracle.”
For two weeks, I cooked dinner on some evenings for the family, hoping to do something to let them know how much I care and how precious my friends are to me. Phil and I dropped the meals over and left, not wanting to interrupt the normalcy of their lives. Of course, these are not ‘normal times’ for them. The sunroom has been redecorated with hospital beds, carts and a wheel chair and a monitor. Gone is the four poster king size bed.
Pictures of the children, collages of life when kids were small, life, love and marriage were so demanding and busy. Memories — now framed within beautiful 8×10’s; 4×6’s, preserved forever — such happy, smiling faces glaring back as we admire. If only we could reach out and make those memories our lives again.
Most of the times, the blinds in the sun room are closed. The room is a bit darker than I remember. How I want to see the sunshine beaming inside the sun room again. I want to hear laughter, to share a simple cup of fresh coffee again.
I keep thinking there must be something else I can do, only I cannot find an answer. And so, another distant friend shared a good piece of advice one day. “You need to write about Elizabeth,” she said. “Just get it down. Cry. Write. Perhaps that is the gift you can share with all.”
“And why didn’t I think of that?” I said.
Last Saturday my husband and I dropped by to visit with Elizabeth. Sitting next to her, I was lost for words, unable to share much, so we sat, watching TV, occasionally playing with the kitten and making small talk. It seems that small talk is all we can share now.
Isn’t it amazing how quickly life can slip away? One moment you are giddy with a special friend, sharing girl talk, laughter and special moments — not to mention the secrets. You blink your eyes, and things change. Suddenly a light begins to fade, from brightness, to brilliance, and slowly dissolving — fading away into darkness.
Still, I pray for a miracle. Friends are so special in my life and when I define someone as a friend, I truly mean he or she has become a special portion of family to me. Elizabeth is a true friend, someone I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. Still, I pray for that miracle and I do all I can to show God how much I believe in miracles. And if a miracle is not granted — I pray that life will be better for Elizabeth in the future, and I hope she will know how precious and dear she is to me and how much she has meant in my life. For years, I drove by Elizabeth’s house, waving to her whenever I saw her outside. I didn’t have the time to stop to get to know her better. Later, I said. Our paths crossed and we knew one another, but we didn’t become close friends until later. How silly and foolish I have been. Always too busy to stop to make the time for a friend. I shall never forgive myself for making that mistake and I have vowed to share friendship now.
I am thankful that I took the time to drop by just last November. Phil and I had a horrible fight and I was ready to throw in the towel again. Just how many times have I thought about doing that? TOO MANY! Instead, I phoned Elizabeth. We played telephone tag for about two hours and finally connected. I need company and advice, I said. She laughed that delicious laughter she always has. “Come on over,” she teased. “Just what has Phil done this time!”
For two hours I filled her ears full of the life and times of my life with Phil. She listened, never telling me what to do. So like her just to sit and listen without criticizing or telling me to leave. She knows me well and recognized that I was simply blowing steam so I could go home and act like a real lady should. Elizabeth is that type of friend — a rare, refined lady who knows how to listen without distracting your life, or making you feel like a total idiot for working so hard to make marriage work. I miss those special visits so much.
Perhaps I will share more about Elizabeth in future editions of this blog. For now, I find it most difficult to simply ‘open that vein and bleed’ as one writer described years ago in a writing conference. The pain is too fresh and I have to find more creative ways to show Elizabeth how much I care.