My sister, Suzie, died when she was 42, of metastatic breast cancer. A mastectomy was followed by chemo, radiation and stem cell therapy. Still, the cancer spread to her liver, her lungs, her brain.My sister knew she was dying and refused to say goodbye. Her children were given nothing to prepare them. No counseling, no hospice, no farewell.I do not want to die like my sister.I do not want to die angry. I want to be able, if I am given the chance, to say my farewells.Last April, my friend, Anne Hunter, learned that cancer had coursed through her body. She was told that the only treatment available could give her, at best, six months.But only at great cost. She would spend most of that time battling horrific side effects. She would be very, very sick.She chose not to do it. She chose to die with acceptance and grace.When I last saw her, there was a long line of folks who wanted time with her.“Anne,” I said, “do you know why so many people want to visit you?”She looked up.“They know exactly how feisty you are,” I said. “They know you will get up there in heaven and start making improvements. They want to make sure you’ll put in a good word for them when their time comes. “In fact,” I added, “I’d be very grateful if you could do that for me, too.”Anne laughed at that.She laughed at all my silly jokes. She wanted, she said, for people to have a sense of humor. Her husband, Joe, later told me she joked that God was taking too long with her. After all, her mother had gone in just a quick couple of days. Why couldn’t she get the same treatment?We didn’t talk long. We didn’t need to. Anne wasn’t going to want a fuss; she just wanted to say goodbye. So we did. Lightly, kindly, with laughter and pleasure in each other’s company.I had not known her long enough. I had not spent the time I wanted with her. But I could be grateful for what I had. So I was.“Anne,” I said, before I left, “we were due for a long lunch together. Do me a favor, will you? Have a table ordered when I’m through running around here like a chicken with my head cut off. Then we’ll have all the time we want.”She nodded.Anne died on Thursday, June 6. She was a smart woman with a powerful sense of ethics. She was a woman of great strength and strong opinions. She never hesitated to express them, either. I loved that in her very much.She showed me – and many others – that dying with grace and humor was possible.Dearest Anne: I know that your daughter Whitney has welcomed you home and that your spirit is alive and well and safe in God’s hands.I will never forget the lesson you have taught me. I want to die as you have taught me: With the strength to see my fate clearly. With the courage and to say goodbye and with the ability to laugh as I go.Thank you, my friend.With love,Barbara
Friday, Jun. 14, 2013
A friend dies with acceptance, grace and good humor
Barbara Thiede is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Barbara? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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