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Four Hours too Late

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    Posted: Aug 05 2014 at 7:56am
Dear beloved TNBC Foundation family,

A dear friend called me, from Mexico, recently, to tell me that her Mother (a friend of mine for 50 years) was very ill with kidney failure and that the doctors had estimated that she had two months to live. 

I planned a visit for two weeks ago but had to cancel due to a family emergency. My gut feeling told me that I should go down to visit but my friend said there was no particular rush and she wanted me to come when her grown children would be back in the city. I decided to go ten days ago even though my friend's kids would not be there.

I landed on Friday evening at 8:30 p.m. and called my friend, as agreed, from the hotel only to find that her Mother had passed away at 4:30 p.m. My friend told me that she told her Mother that I was coming and that her Mom was looking forward to seeing me but sadly I missed the opportunity to say goodbye. 

Many years ago I was trying to go to visit a friend, overseas, who had Advanced Stage IV disease and was trying to make the trip at the most convenient time for me and also the most economic. I asked an oncologist friend about the timing of the trip and he said that the basic rule he suggested in cases like this was to make seeing the patient a priority and to try to see someone who is very ill as soon as you can because "you never know what can happen...a stroke, loss of speech, cognition or even death."

In that case I went to see my friend and he was in good enough shape to go with me in his car around Nassau and he directed me as I drove. It was a beautiful, memorable, day and he showed me where he grew up, his first school etc. We even managed to take in a 007 movie and even though he slept through most of it, he enjoyed getting out of the house. The next time I visited him some months later, he was bedridden and not nearly as alert, mentally, as my previous visit which was only six weeks prior.

I wanted to share my experiences with all of you because I feel the advice my oncologist friend gave me was prudent. If you have a loved one in your life who has terminal disease and you want to visit please try to make that visit as soon as you can. Often, people do not want to visit their loved ones when they are very ill. It is obviously very painful to visit a loved one on their final journey but it an opportunity to say goodbye in person and from what I have seen the person you visit may not ask you to come but greatly appreciates the visit. 

And I have also seen cases where a mother has told me "I don't want my child to see me 'like this'..." And yet after the child has come the mother was delighted with the visit. There is no one size fits all but, again, in general I would encourage all here to try and spend some time with a loved one who is terminally ill and try to make the visit as soon as possible.

And there is no 'easy' or 'right' solution here. It is all very, very personal. Also on my trip to Mexico I stayed to read a eulogy. The brother of the deceased chose to not come to the funeral because he "hates funerals." Well, who likes funerals? I don't think most of us do but it is a sign of respect and support for the family that we show up. He didn't come and he missed an important experience.

with my love to all here,

Steve

My eulogy-

Eulogy for A

A and I were friends for 54 years. I was 16 when I first met her and G.. 

I came to Mexico, Friday night, to this prayer to A and say goodbye. But it is said that, sometimes, Man plans and G-d laughs. So, very sadly, I was not able to read it to her in person. 

I think her passion for her family and friends and her love of life are the paramount things that defined Amor to me. Yes, she was an extremely bright, elegant, fashionable woman who loved to travel, the theater, a good movie, good food and good conversation and she was an accomplished sculptress but the main reason our friendship deepened over the years was the joy we both derived from our families. I cannot think of a single lunch or dinner meeting where we did not bring each other up to date on our children and grandchildren and they also told us proudly about their adored great-grandchildren. 

And the conversations at times were often serious as life brings challenges to all of us but A and G met those challenges with love and support always putting family first. 

A was also an extraordinary daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She had the ability to understand the other person’s perspective and lovingly support them.

At one point, years ago, A and G tried to live in Beverly Hills but they both told us…”the apartment is lovely, it’s easier to travel, the environment is healthier and more tranquil on a certain level, but being away from our family is torture. “

For sure, returning to Mexico was the right decision because they got so much pleasure from their family and dear friends. You filled their hearts, as I know they filled yours. Her family was A's life. Yesterday, I spent a good deal of time at Amor’s home and the legacy of love and caring that she left was palpably present. C flying in from Las Vegas, T and her family from Argentina, J from Israel and A and L from a work/vacation in Mexico. E’s wonderfully supportive, dear friend, B came from FL. Even an ex-son-in-law, M, came with his wife and son. It was all so beautifully natural and authentic. No one had to be asked to come. Their coming eloquently spoke more than words-actions that showed respect for this lovely woman who gave, all here, so much of herself. 

Now that A's final journey is over I would like to encourage everyone present to find the beauty in each day .  I think that would be the best way to honor A. I know she would rejoice in that as that is how she lived her life. A. truly loved life.

Some special words for E. E you have always dreamed of having a grandchild and the videos you sent me the other day filled your mom and I with joy and I know D is consistently one of your joys every day. So please enjoy life as best you can and be kind and gentle to yourself. No one could have been a better daughter and you are a marvelous mother and Bobbee.  A and your dad treasured you and your love. Your love and support for your Mom since your dad passed was truly remarkable. I am so very proud of you. 

My life has changed, profoundly, since my eldest daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago. I devote much of my life, as a volunteer, to helping people with cancer and as part of that effort I have , all too often, experienced loss because the patients have become friends.

The following poem is from Graceful Passages a collection of prayers that has helped me and the families I am honored to serve. I gave a copy to A, E, C and R when I came to see G shortly before he passed. I know A read it then and she appreciated it because we discussed it. I would like to read it to her one last time.





Letting Yourself Be Loved -- Lew Epstein

 

No one has ever prepared us for this experience.

 

We think it's the end--no.

 

It's another beginning.

 

It's knowing that you're loved, knowing that you're loved.

 

It's not easy, letting yourself be loved--

 

Because we've learned to judge ourselves--

 

we're always judging ourselves.

 

 

 

But I learned to listen that I was loved. I was loved!

 

And then I would forget I was loved. Those were the most painful times for me--

 

forgetting that I was loved.

 

 

 

So you've let yourself be loved while you've been here.

 

And you've judged yourself.

 

And you've forgotten that you were loved.

 

And you became alone...but you will always be here.

 

 

 

You are blessed. You are forgiven. You are an angel.

 

 

 

You have to listen that you're loved and you have to forgive all the time.

 

Listen that you're loved and forgive, all the time.

 

You are love.

 

 

 

Farewell my son.

 

Farewell my daughter.

 

Farewell my father.

 

Farewell my mother.

 

Farewell my sister.

 

Farewell my brother.

 

 

 

Thank you for letting me love you.

 

Thank you for letting yourself be loved.


 

God bless you.


..........

A, may you rest in peace. Thank you for your friendship and thank you for your love. Your presence graced our lives and we shall keep you in our hearts.

I am a BRCA1+ grandson, son and father of women affected by breast/oc-my daughter inherited mutation from me, and at 36, was dx 2004 TNBC I am a volunteer patient advocate with SAGE Patient Advocates
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123Donna View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 123Donna Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 05 2014 at 9:01am
Steve,

You always give us very good advice.  I'm so sorry you weren't able to see your dear friend before she passed, but the fact that she knew you were coming must have lifted her spirits in those final hours.  

Years ago a dear friend of mine who I had worked with my entire corporate life was battling bone cancer.  This man was the most amazing person, a true family man, kind to all, smarter than anyone I've met and just an overall great person.  I had talked to him and knew it was getting bad so another coworker friend and I decided to visit him one day.  On the way to his house my coworker got really ill (we had to make several stops) and we had to turn around.  We called him and and got his voice message.  We left a message about the failed attempt and that we would schedule another visit soon.  Well sadly to say, he declined quickly in the next few days and we never got that chance.  His wife at the funeral told us he was so excited about our visit and kept looking out the window for us.  She said they had a good laugh at the phone message we left.  I was crushed knowing we missed this one last chance and still carry the regret today.

Hugs,
Donna
DX IDC TNBC 6/09 age 49, Stage 1,Grade 3, 1.5cm,0/5Nodes,KI-67 48%,BRCA-,6/09bi-mx, recon, T/C X4(9/09)
11/10 Recur IM node, Gem,Carb,Iniparib 12/10,MRI NED 2/11,IMRT Radsx40,CT NED11/13,MRI NED3/15

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SagePatientAdvocates Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 05 2014 at 10:21am
Dear Donna,

Thanks for your thoughts and sharing your experience...

what happened to us was beyond our control and in your case your friend's discomfort and in my case a family member's emergency caused us to change our plans. I think it is called life...things happen.

What is clear is that our friends deeply valued our friendship and that the intentions were genuine. Please be kind and gentle to yourself regarding the change of plans. You were a beautiful person then and you are now. 

with my love and respect,

Steve
I am a BRCA1+ grandson, son and father of women affected by breast/oc-my daughter inherited mutation from me, and at 36, was dx 2004 TNBC I am a volunteer patient advocate with SAGE Patient Advocates
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Annie View Drop Down
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    Hello Steve, My sympathy to you. I so enjoyed the poem, Letting Yourself be Loved. It brought tears to my eyes. It is so rich in meaning. Thank You.   Love, Annie
Annie TNBC Stage IIA Gr 3 1cm lesion 2/5 lymph nodes+ lumpectomy,FEC & D 30Rads finished(08/2009) BRCA- Chronic Cellulitis due to Radiation-- L.Mastectomy Jan 2012
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