What do you say to a friend who has told you that she has just learned that she has four months to live?
I wrote about my co-worker who was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma shortly after giving birth to her second child. Her husband just finished his training to be an elementary teacher, but he does not have a job yet. For now, she is the primary breadwinner for her family of four.
But last week just a few feet away from where I was working, she was on the phone when I heard her sobbing. This is a woman I have never seen shed a tear. In fact, I could not imagine her crying. She is a tough cookie who has made it clear to anyone who knows her that she demands her personal space, and that she doesn’t give (or receive) hugs. But I didn’t care. The only thing I knew to do when she came to tell me what she had learned was to hug her, if only briefly. She tolerated it. I told her I would clean up her experiment for the day. She said she didn’t see a need to be coming back to work, and I said she should go home to be with her children.
But now what? What do I say at this point? We chat a lot at work, but we don’t have any social life outside of that. We don’t chat on the phone evenings or weekends. Also, she is not Christian, as I am. The usual avenues of giving comfort to another believer are not there. On top of that, this co-worker has a tendency to keep her problems to herself; she does not ask for help. I was afraid she would hole up and I would not see her again. So as she left work I told her I would be sending her text messages, which is a new thing for her, as she only recently purchased a smart phone.
But what would I write?
“How are you doing?” No.
“How are things going?” No.
“When will you be coming back to work?” Probably not.
How about, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life?” …or some other inspirational message. Definitely not!
What I decided to do was to send her funny/inspirational quotes…quirky things that she would appreciate. The message is this: I am still here. I am thinking about you. Here is something to take your mind off the enormity of your challenge, if only for a short while. She seems to appreciate it.
What would you say? What would you do?