One day mom called me up to tell me that a childhood friend was dying of pancreatic cancer. Our families were friends and even though he was older we spent a lot of time together as kids. I made plans to head down and pick up mom and go see him at the palliative care center.
When we arrived his mom was there as she was most days, morning til night. We visited for a few minutes and then he asked our moms to give us a couple of minutes. Once they were gone we started talking. He asked about what had happened to me and I told him about the heart attack, stroke and diagnosis of my rare disease. He asked if when I found out the what caused my events, was I glad it wasn’t anything I had done. No one had ever asked me that but I already knew the answer – yes! He smiled and said to me – I was scared whatever was wrong with me was because of something I had done to myself, and now no one can judge me.
We continued talking for a bit and starting talking about the fact that he was going to die, and how he needed to talk about it but his mother refused to even go there, and no one else in the family dared to say anything about it in front of her. That he was glad I came because he knew I would talk about it with him and that was the reason he had sent our moms away. Then he asked me if “it” would be easy. That shocked me because I don’t think I had ever told mom about how I felt myself slipping away the night of the heart attack and if my friend had not called, I think I would have slipped away completely as my doctor said I should not have survived. And that was the only way he would have known, but somehow he knew I had come that close. So I thought for a couple of minutes and reflected and told him that at a certain point it is easy, and that it would be easy for him too when it was time.
And later driving home from visiting, I thought about the first part of the conversation about being glad we were not at fault. Still to this day people assume I caused my heart attack and stroke – until they find out I have a different disease but on first contact I feel judged. In the hospital it was even worse before my disease was diagnosed. People assumed.
My childhood friend passed away just a couple of weeks later. I am glad I took the time to reconnect – I hope it helped him and I knew it was easy for him at the end because I had a feeling come over me one Friday evening and in my mind I knew it had been easy and he was gone. A couple of days later mom called me to tell me he had passed away Friday evening, exactly when I had the feeling come over me.
Assuming things about another person is a trap we all fall into, but if we try to walk a mile in their shoes, perhaps we can become less judgemental and more caring.