It’s been a sad few months, more so in the past few weeks, watching a mysterious cancer rage through my friend’s body. I have kept expecting her to get better – she’s always seemed so strong and tough. So much wasted time, missed opportunity. For too long I’ve taken it for granted she’ll be there forever. I realized the other day that I’d been in denial, and had better see her now, just in case. That night I went to her bedside, where her daughter and husband had been all day. I left the hospital before 8 pm. There’s a large extended family who love her and they were waiting.
It’s about 45 minutes from the hospital to home and I was quiet the whole way, remembering details: how frail she looks now compared to just a few weeks ago; how thin and waxlike her hand seemed when I held it, while they tried to find a vein in the other one; how delicate she looks compared to any way I’ve seen her during our twenty-two year friendship. I thought about how important she’s been to me – is it always true that we don’t think of these things until there’s a threat?
She said, “I love you” with that urgency in her eyes that I knew meant ‘I might die, and I want you to know this.’ I said – for the same reason – that I loved her too, and that the world is a better place because she has been in it. Because people were standing around listening, I quietly said to her, “I know what you might be thinking, and you know what I am probably thinking.” She nodded. Somehow, feelings were more important than facts.
She and I have had similar, unfashionable political perspectives. Over the years, we have discussed just about everything, from climate change to shopping, from the real estate market to parenting. On a personal level, we can tell each other anything. On the surface, we live different lifestyles, tastes and behaviours; yet we have so much in common. I’ve never been concerned that she might say one thing to my face, and another behind my back, because she has been spontaneous and blunt whenever she disagreed with me. It didn’t offend, just increased my trust.
A rare kind of friendship. She calls me “Hon”, and accepts that I have never called anyone “hon”. Except the other night, when I walked into her hospital room. She is ‘cuddly’ – and so nice to hug. She knows how much I appreciate her. And she knows how much I would miss her.