2. For­get Me Not

The Walrus - - FEATURES -

Af­ter I got sick, the mail brimmed with beau­ti­ful cards and doo­dled let­ters. Knocks on the door meant flow­ers or a won­der­ful hand­made present. Peo­ple brought soup and mag­a­zines, hugged me, and then dis­ap­peared. The im­pulse to do some­thing took many forms, each an ex­pres­sion of a won­der­ful per­son’s best self.

The postal ser­vice strug­gles to re­main rel­e­vant, de­liv­er­ing mostly bills and fly­ers, but I looked for­ward to the day’s mail. It made me feel loved. I tried to re­sist the urge to tear all the jelly bean– coloured en­velopes open at the door, in­stead car­ry­ing them in­side to savour on the sofa with a cup of tea. I loved what the choice of card told me about each sen­der, and the sweet sen­ti­ments they shared. It was the best part of my day.

But things changed. I’ve been sick a long time. And if I’m lucky, I’ll be sick a long time yet. I need to con­serve my en­ergy, and so do my sup­port­ers. And I will need so much more help when this gets worse.

For now, with my dis­ease more or less sta­bi­lized by drugs through a clin­i­cal trial, I am able to take care of my­self. But that’s not the same thing as car­ing for my­self. I need other peo­ple to care for me. And it’s not fair to ask my hus­band to be all things — and yet more and more, I ask him to be just that, and he is.

I don’t need the gor­geous home-cooked food right now, al­though it’s de­li­cious and ap­pre­ci­ated. A time will come when I need much more of that kind of help. So, in fear of burn­ing out my sup­port­ers be­fore I’m in­ca­pac­i­tated, I try not to ask for much.

And since I’m not ask­ing, peo­ple are timid. They don’t want to get in the way or make me feel bad when I say, “No, thank you.” They don’t want to risk say­ing the wrong thing and up­set­ting me. Be­cause who knows what to say when some­body they love is dy­ing — and dy­ing, not now, but on some in­de­ter­mi­nate later date?

There is no right or wrong thing to say. Lan­guage be­comes a labyrinth of well-in­ten­tioned mis­steps that of­fers scarce mo­ments of clar­ity. Click-bait ar­ti­cles with ti­tles such as “12 things never to say to some­one who has can­cer” list highly per­sonal pet peeves, none of which nec­es­sar­ily ap­plies to the can­cer pa­tient near you. Ev­ery­one’s can­cer is per­sonal.

The stakes are too high. We don’t want to up­set the peo­ple we love. So we pull back and away. It’s no won­der that so many peo­ple find it eas­ier to say noth­ing at all.

And so the shower of thought­ful ges­tures dries to a trickle, and fear cal­ci­fies the si­lence. And I, at the mo­ment not in acute cri­sis, give up my place in the front of your mind. I yield be­cause I know there’s some­thing more press­ing.

While you’re out in the world, among the peo­ple and the glo­ri­ous mess of liv­ing, I’m still here — alone, more of­ten than not. And a tiny lit­tle voice in my heart is whis­per­ing as loud as it can: “Please don’t let me be for­got­ten.” Not now, not yet.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.