I just left the hospital. I had to say goodbye to an old friend today. She’s the Mom of one of my very favorite Young Life kids. She and her husband treated me like family when I was in college. So many nights hanging out with the kids at their house, relaxing in the hammock, listening to stories, and seeing what Becky’s new hobby of the year was. She always had a new craft she was learning. Her mind was incredible – always active, always on. I swear she had a zillion ideas all at once and most of those ideas had a million branches with another million ideas tied to them. I was a bright young college student when I met her, with a passion for people and teaching, but I was afraid of my ideas. I still am a lot of times. But Becky, man she had such a light heart and nothing seemed impossible for her. I’d say something I was doubting, or not sure I could accomplish or do, or sometimes she would just hear the doubt in my voice. When that happened she would tilt her head slightly and in her bubbling yet commanding voice she would say with a bright laugh, ” Amy…. WHY NOT!” ” Why not” was her phrase to me.
My internal answers…
because I am afraid
because I hurt
because I don’t believe in myself
because I don’t know how to make it happen
because I am might fail
because I don’t want to do it alone
None of those are very good reasons to “why not”. They are honest, they are real, and they are all fear centered. Watching her life made me braver.
I sat by her bedside in the hospital for a little while, my vibrant friend is tired, her body is shutting down due to the cancer invading her insides. She has fought, and fought HARD for 12 years. She had great Dr’s, a supportive family, and more positive energy than can be captured in words. She was one of the people I was excited to move back to our town to be able to spend time with and continue to grow from. I always thought we would have “tomorrow”. She will be gone from us in the next few hours to days. Our tomorrows are up.
I thought I would have a better pain day, and be able to learn her latest craft with her, to play in her garden, to learn to sew beautiful quilts, to REST and enjoy life with her. I never did. I never rationed my “up” time for her or any of the other people further out in my circle of friends. As I sat by her bed and asked her to forgive me for not spending more time with her, she shook her head at me like I was being silly. I missed out on time with an amazing woman because I took tomorrow for granted. Sometimes we run out of tomorrows.
I have clarity in my heart and mind right now. Friendships are deeply important to me, they always have been. I HAVE to make time for the people I love and want to know, there is no “good time”. Life is busy, and painful, and there is little to no energy on certain days. But what are we saying NO to so we can rest our aching bodies? What friends are we going to cry over when they are gone from our presence or our lives because of our pain or life happening – like my friends cancer? What choices are we making that are hurting us when we think they are helping?
Pain takes a lot away from us, but does it HAVE to take everything?
What happens if we change our attitudes about our pain? What happens if we change our attitudes about our level of disability? What can we do if we LET GO of some of the burdens holding us down? What if I let people push me in a wheelchair all those years ago so I could participate? What if I took my prescribed medications as directed and not just when I “really” hurt. What if I had gone and hung out with my friend on her floor? What if I had been willing to be more vulnerable with more people about my level of pain and disability? What if I hadn’t tried so damn hard to hold it all together for the people around me? Would I have preserved some more of those friendships?
I don’t know. I can’t go back and change it – but I can learn from it and move forward. In my values system friends are worth fighting for, so from now on I am committed to fighting through my pain, fear and insecurities and say WHY NOT me, why NOT us, why NOT do this today….. Life is too short. We have to grab the pieces of joy we can, and often times it is our OUTLOOK that changes our future and our behavior.
What will you say, WHY NOT?! to today?