Two of my dear friends just flew in for the weekend to visit with my mother and take care of her.
These two women took time off from their jobs; spent their own hard-earned money on cross-country flights; and spent a gorgeous weekend in New York City at Christmastime doing little but cook for her, clean for her, organize paperwork and financial forms for her, and spend time loving and entertaining her in her little apartment in Inwood (one even helped me take her home from the hospital mere hours after she arrived on a red-eye from Los Angeles).
My boyfriend has literally given up his weekends and many of his weeknights to help, doing dishes, cleaning my mother’s bathroom, and cooking for us when he can.
Another close friend answered my emergency call and gave up two of his Tuesdays to take mom to her chemotherapy sessions, driving the mean streets of NYC in thunderous rain to make sure she got to her appointment safely, soundly.
My aunt flew in for a day and helped get my mother to the ER almost singlehandedly. Her daughter, a nurse, offers nearly every day to use her vacation time to fly here to offer an extra, experienced hand to take care of my mother and give me a little extra time off.
Several of my best friends call or text everyday, sending messages full of good thoughts, funny pictures, well wishes, and love. People I’ve only recently begun to know lend patient ears as I regurgitate stories and observances about cancer, or mom’s declining health, or whatever, making me feel listened too and buttressed with genuine concern from a support network I barely knew I had.
Via Facebook and e-mail, friends relate their own experiences with cancer — their own, or someone they know — to let me and mom know that, tragically, we’re not alone. Far from it.
My mother’s friends call and email every other day, desperate to help in whatever way they can. Her boss brings food, flowers, and tips for care and comfort that might never have occurred to me otherwise.
Mom’s pulmnologist, not known for her warm demeanor, called unexpectedly to check in on mom, and revealed her own struggles with a family history of lung cancer and how it touched her.
My editors have sent baskets full of fruit and goodies and found ways to accomodate my now-shattered drawing schedule, and I’ve never been known for being a quick artist anyway (stop laughing in agreement, people from work — who know just what an understatement that is!).
Mom’s doctors have been generous with time, information, and empathy — visiting her multiple times, and even giving her hugs while she lies dehydrated in her hospital bed.
Her doctor’s nurse has been extraordinary in the amount of effort, time, and effort to make sure she’s as comfortable and as pain free as possible, invested in a way I’ve been awed by (you’d think mom had been her patient for two years instead of two months).
Her new home health care nurse, a big personality, and big heart to match, and a real understanding of my mother’s limits and her pain — because all she seems to want is for mom to feel better.
People have come out of the wood work in the past couple of months with words of support, kindness, and empathy. They travel, they cook, they clean. They help with shoulders to cry on and perked ears to listen. They give what they can when they can, in a way that marvels my mother, especially when she feels the most sick, the most exhausted. They attempt to heal, to soothe, and try so very hard to make mom laugh and feel loved.
What has struck me about this experience is how much good we’ve encountered. How many good people we know. And how generous they are with their time, energy, and love. We’re surrounded by them. And, thus stricken, I’m reminded that — depending on time and place — the energy you put out into the world is very often the energy you receive back (at least, when the world works the way it should, although the world definitely seems to have far too many off days).
I believe that, given love, good, kindness, and connection, most people are capable of enormous acts of good, of love, of kindness, and of connection themselves. I believe most people are capable of being amazing, if you give them opportunity and support to be so. I believe that while some people may fail you, many, many people will come through when you need them to, in whatever way they can or know how (and sometimes that requires a bit of patience on your part, ’cause not everyone will come thru in the way you think they should. Doesn’t mean they’re not trying, tho.’).
And I think saying “thank you” and meaning it when someone does you a kindness is not only nice for the person offering their help to hear, but is good for you, too. Acknowledging that magnanimity and honoring it is good for your spirit. It makes you aware of what you’ve received, and what you’re capable of giving and giving back, too.
Sure, some people can suck, and suck hard. I’ve met a few in my day and the thought of what their energies do to the world and the people around them makes my blood boil. But more often than not, it’s my experience that people can be good. Hell, some people can even be fucking spectacular. And going through this experience — and seeing so much love and warmth and goodness visited upon my mother during a really grim, painful, awful time by some really extraordinary people —
— makes me realize just how good my mom is. She’s one of those people. She’s someone who’s made the world better with her love and kindness and warmth. And how how much I want to be like her — how much I’d rather be good, like her…
…like all of these incredible people who have been so good to us, so good to her, and to me…
’cause good people rule.