Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect... Or Putting My Best Self Forward

This is a picture of me and most of my siblings. My oldest sister is missing because she lives in New Mexico now. It was taken this past Mother's Day as I teach my much more tech-savvy siblings how to blog. What better image to illustrate what I am going to talk about.

I baked those cookies last night to take to a client, Maureen. I ran into her in the grocery store two days ago. I asked how she was. Fine, I asked how her mother was. Dying. She broke down in front of the deli counter and told me her mother was in her last days. She was buying cold cuts because her two brothers and family were flying in from around the country to say goodbye. I asked because her mother was not only a client, but also someone I thought was a lovely and interesting woman. I knew she had moved here to be closer to some of her family in her retirement.

I couldn't stop thinking about it. I had hugged Maureen even though human contact and empathy are not my forte. I wanted to do something more. It popped into my head that I should bake cookies. She is still alive, but not for much longer. Are cookies too festive? It is tradition to bring food to the home of someone who has died to help the family deal with the onslaught of visitors. She hasn't died- is this wrong? Do I put a card on top of the plate of cookies and just leave it at the door? Too cowardly. This is an exchange that requires talking. So awkward. I thought what I would want and I realized how thankful I would feel for anyone showing up at my door. I pushed myself to complete what I had thought to do.

I baked the cookies and then on the drive to work I thought of a million reasons that I couldn't drop them off at her house. I had never been there so I drove past a few times trying to find it. I drove up the long driveway. Only two cars in the driveway. Rang the bell. Long wait. And there she was- she burst into tears again. She told me "You are amazing." "I came back from the grocery and told my husband that I saw you. Tried to keep it light, but you asked about my mother. I had to tell you and it was like someone had sent you to ask me that question." I assured her that it was an answer that required practice- saying someone has died or is dying. I was just a good person to practice on. "I couldn't wait to get home and tell my Mother that you had asked about her." And again she said "you are amazing."

I don't repeat that bit about "amazing" so that everyone will know I am amazing, but so that everyone understands the sort of response you might get from following through on a very tiny act of kindness to another. I feel good for having done it. And I resolve to try to do it again.

When my own husband died I had a group of friends who gathered around me (along with my family) to make sure I didn't completely fall apart. My friend, Louise, moved in with me so I didn't have to fall asleep alone for the first three weeks. She fed me and listened to me cry myself to sleep while she slept on the most uncomfortable couch in the world. My friend, Michelle, took my dog into her home in such an unassuming way that I didn't notice Lady was gone. I couldn't care for myself, much less my dog. My friend, Annie, sat Shiva, which I don't think I ever would have understood without her. I am not too Jewish. Even my brother-in-law, Andy, who silently served cosmopolitans to a bunch of us one evening... dropping a new cherry in each fresh new glass so we could keep track of how much we imbibed. Some of us ate the cherries though. People do that for each other.

Loss is a part of living. Sometimes it feels too close though- my two little sisters, pictured above, have battled cancer -breast & retinal melanoma. My mother is a great-grandmother. I worry about losing anyone else, but I know I am surrounded by amazing people.


Michelle said...

ok, I am a bitch....never mind about the cookies.

SMC said...

Hey- there is never anything wrong with coveting cookies. I think that is why they were invented... so we would know true desire.

LYC said...

Well, you ARE amazing....having been through losing someone close doesn't make it easier the next time, but it does make it easier to understand what others are going through.