Only certain events can rock your very core in a matter of moments. Two in three days really gets your attention.
On a Tuesday afternoon, one of my close friends called to say her husband who had been admitted days before to the hospital with pneumonia, was not responding well and they found he has a serious lung condition. The conflux of events was bad. In critical condition, the doctors were not giving her much hope of recovery. We have known them for more than 24 years. When we first met we were all on the verge of becoming parents. Now, we’re empty nesters. And they get us as few others do. With them we can be very transparent and feel no judgment. We share many interests and life experiences. He is 49. Only 49. A runner who is full of life, dreams, energy. My husband and I went through a deep range of emotions in a short amount of time that were difficult to disentangle. These are friends we always envisioned sharing the rest of our lives with, traveling, talking, laughing, simply doing the journey. They are part of our identity as a couple. We love them as family.
Two days later, my parents called with the news that my dad had cancer. While our friend who is like family was sedated in ICU, my dad who loves me like only a father can, was facing an immediate but unknown course of action. And we live a long distance from both my dad and my friend, which instantly felt even longer. My parents’ voices were strong and they expressed faith as they told their news. Thankfully, I was able to call my parents anytime, hear their voices, get updates on the situation, tell them I love them. Be supportive, if only over the phone.
Painfully, it wasn’t the same with our friend. His critical condition, of course, restricted visitors to family only. His wife sent email updates as possible yet was unable to talk on the phone and assured everyone that visitors added stress for her. I kept my phone on me every minute and checked email constantly. No news for 24 hours or more would deepen the worry. We struggled to stay here and not start driving north (especially with both situations at hand), yet the timing wasn’t yet right.
Within a week, amazingly, my dad had surgery and the prognosis is very good. I am so thankful for that and for their strong network of friends who also supported them through this. Currently, our friend is making progress. He’s still in critical condition, but overcoming the odds, which is amazing. It is hard to wait, though, and the inability to talk directly with them leaves a hole.
One thing I am sure of…these times brush away all the clutter of life and single out about what matters most. Relationships. Faith. Love. When we moved here 18 months ago, it was tough leaving close friends and family. Yet I knew that long-time, deep connections would stay linked even at a distance and that’s been true. I also hoped to develop a place-based sense of community through forming rich relationships over time. When I shared these situations with colleagues and friends here, people volunteered to help us in a number of ways. To watch our dog or help at work if we needed to travel. To be a diversion. Go out and get our minds off of the heaviness of it all, if only for a few hours. A hug, a cup of coffee, simple words of comfort. Whatever was needed. It helped and showed me the growing community we already have here. And others we’ve known longer who live in other places have been praying for my dad and friend and supporting us as well. Call it community or tribe or network or whatever you want. It’s a strong anchor in the storm and a critical ingredient in life.