Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

03 October, 2009

A FRIEND ENTERS HIS LAST DAYS...

...And all I can do is ask "why"?
Death itself does not bother me,
it's dying that has me perplexed
I have a friend Richard who is dying of cancer...It is safe to say that we all have had a friend at one time or another who was dying of cancer...Most of us have had loved ones who have died of cancer.  It is an insatiable disease that is no respecter of who we are or what we are.  It is a killer and there is no justice.
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I have known Richard for more than 40 years.  We were next door neighbours at one time.  We just seemed to click.  We would give each other the shirt off our back and on several occasions came darn close to doing just that.  Our wives were good friends too.  We were plain, ordinary, hard-working people who were comfortable in each other's company -- and we had fun for a lot of years.  We shared inner most insecurities, we shared dreams, we rationalized the reality of our lives.  We were known to both laugh and to cry together.
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Because of circumstances in our lives, and the distance between us, we kept in touch the past few years by telephone mostly.  The last time I talked to Richard was almost two months ago when he revealed to me in an emotional 45-minute conversation the sorry details of his cancer diagnosis.  He had lung cancer and he was not looking forward to the necessary treatment -- no one does.  He was worried that he would not be able to finish clearing a wood lot.  He always had several chores on the go at the same time -- and some of them he actually finished. 
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Most of our conversation that day was devoted to reminiscences about the time we ran out of gas five miles off the shores of Lake Erie while on a fishing excursion, and the time we were delivering an old car of mine to his father who wanted to use it as an ice fishing vehicle, and a motor mount broke, spewing oil all over the engine that I had spent two days cleaning (a helpful mechanic along the way got us back on the road).  The car, a 1963 Meteor, was an absolute mess by the time we got it to Richard's father in St. Williams and I offered to give it to him at no charge.  "Don't worry about it Dick.  To me it looks like a Cadillac," he enthused as he handed me five 20-dollar bills, the previously-arranged amount.
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Then there was the time Richard and I worked for three weeks refurbishing an old boat that was destined to break loose from a trailer hitch as we were hauling it to the lake for its first re-launching.  Our pride and joy ended up in the ditch, totally demolished.  Our wives called us the "bad luck Charlies".  All we could do was laugh.

Richard used to regale me with his baseball playing prowess.  One day I suggested we have a game of catch.  My first toss to him glanced off the webbing of his glove and hit him squarely in his eye.  With his eye rapidly swelling shut, I suggested we "have a beer".  He readily agreed, letting me know in no uncertain terms, however, that I should have warned him that I was throwing him "a curve". 
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One evening we were out on the town when Richard's wife Pat became ill.  When we got home that evening it was discovered that a very "oozy" Pat had lost her false teeth.  I went back at midnight with a flash light and retraced our  steps that evening and found her teeth in a snow bank at the side of the road.  Again, all we could do was laugh.
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Friends being friends!
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As we concluded our last conversation Richard was in hysterics, relaying to Pat everything that we were saying.  I'm so glad we had that light-hearted, reminiscent chat.  For at least 40 minutes I think that Richard forgot about what was ahead of him.
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I received a message from Richard's daughter this morning advising me that her dad had experienced difficulty breathing and had been admitted to hospital where they removed 2.5 litres of fluid from one of his lungs.  Tests also showed that his cancer had spread to his liver, bowels, pancreas and kidneys.  He had been placed in palliative care where they were keeping him as comfortable as possible.  It will only be a matter of days.
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In the time that he has left, what can I say or do for my friend?  I don't even know if I can get to the hospital before the inevitable happens.
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Sometimes instead of worrying about what to say or what to do for a dying friend, we simply should ask them what they want us to do.
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I think that Richard would tell me to go on living, to enjoy every day to the fullest, to not worry about him because he is going to be okay.  He's going to be free of the body that has failed him and he will be there for me when I need him on the other side.  After all, that's what friends are for.
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But, please God, why does Richard have to suffer so much as his earthly count-down begins a few months shy of his 72nd birthday?  Is this the price we all have to pay for the the reward that awaits us in Heaven?  Why, God, is this happening to my friend?...Why did it happen to my wife Anne?  Why will it happen to me, as I am sure it will?
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Why?..Why?...Why?...Sometimes there are no answers to questions like this.  But we keep on hoping that someday there will be answers to the mystery of the life we live here on earth and why we have to exit so tired, so sick and so medicated, yet mercifully relieved in the end to be leaving behind all that we had worked for and all that we knew and loved.
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God be with you my very good friend.  I have to trust that He knows what He is doing.  Perhaps you already know and you can explain it to me someday.
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Be seeing you Richard...We'll talk again.  No more curves.  I promise!

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