Have you ever stopped to consider what role friends play in your life, and how deep your friendships go? Do you have a circle of friends that you can count on to be there for you when you need them most? And if you do, do you realize how fortunate you are ?
Wikipedia describes friendship as, “the cooperative and supportive relationship between people, or animals. In this sense, the term connotes a relationship which involves mutual knowledge, esteem, affection, and respect along with a degree of rendering service to friends in times of need or crisis. …”
I’ve had the time and incentive this year to begin examining many aspects of my life, including the friendships I’ve made over my lifetime thus far, and I now realize just how fortunate I am to have friends who ‘step up to the plate’ when times are tough.
One night last November I arrived home late from being with my husband at the hospital and found a large orange cooler waiting for me by my front door. Not sure what to expect, I lifted its cover and peeked inside. The cooler was packed with a variety of useful everyday items and food, including, but not limited to, the following: bagels, cream cheese, homemade bread, butter, individual tubs of fruit salad, paper towels, bathroom tissue, hand sanitizer, a Bar-B-Q’d chicken, potato salad, and coleslaw.
My first reaction was surprise. “Who on earth did this?” Then, I confess, I thought, “WHY did someone do this? I’m not poor—I can afford to buy my own bread and bathroom tissue!”
It took me a few minutes to understand that this cooler was perched on my porch because someone, or a group of someones, cared about me and my family.
My fifty-six year old husband was in the hospital, diagnosed with cancer, and my days and nights were being spent on a hamster wheel—get up early in the morning, shower and dress, head out the door, grab the paper from the front step (best scenario, or from under the car or truck or on the front lawn, worst scenario), make sure there was gas in the car for the forty minute drive to the hospital, pick up coffee and stand in line for an elevator to take me up to my husband’s floor.
Spend the day with him: share stories from the newspaper; play cards when he felt up to it; hold hands; talk about the trivial and important matters that spouses talk about; be there to help answer questions from doctors and nurses; deal with bureaucracy; watch him doze. Wait for him to return from endless appointments involving CT Scans; scopes; a procedure to insert an intravenous line through his left shoulder to nestle just above his heart, allowing easy access for chemotherapy drugs to be administered; another procedure to insert a tube through his abdomen, enabling him to receive nourishment via this new “umbilical cord”; a trip to the radiologist department in another hospital to receive tattoos for his upcoming radiation treatments.
Our days and evenings were filled with doctors making their rounds; nurses checking vital signs, changing bed linens, checking his chemotherapy and saline drips, pouring cans of breakfast or lunch or supper into the plastic bottle that hung on an IV pole beside his bed and ensuring the line leading from the bottle into his abdomen wasn’t clogged; and chatting with visitors/family members stopping by to share time and stories with him.
After the last visitor left and I made sure my husband was settled in for the night, it was time for me to head home for a few hours of sleep, or at least for a few hours of lying down. Forget about stopping to traipse through a grocery store picking up supplies for a late supper or quick breakfast—I was too tired and stressed to think about that.
So somehow several of my friends realized that I required help; even though I hadn’t asked for it and wasn’t really aware that I needed it, they came through for me.
They banded together and formed what they laughingly called my “Friend Brigade”, and their first assignment was to pack a cooler with items they thought I could use, and leave it on my front step. Inside the cooler, along with the food and household items they purchased, was a note advising me to empty the cooler and put it back outside my door, and to check it at night when I arrived home from the hospital. So I did.
One night I came home, opened the cooler, and found bowls of wonderful clam chowder and fresh rolls inside. Another night I discovered a crock of homemade beans and brown bread.
One night I opened the cooler and found a box inside. When I opened the box, there was a card and note from a friend in Ontario, along with a stuffed bear that sings “That’s What Friends Are For”, when I press its paw. Another night there was a note telling me to look in the bar-b-q on my back deck—there I found a bag of DVDs that a girlfriend thought my husband and I might want to watch together.
And on and on and on it went…I forgot about not needing anyone’s help, and became very thankful for the gifts bestowed on me—the food of course, the cards and notes, the bear and the DVDs, but mainly the warmth of friendship I felt every time I opened that cooler late at night and found that someone was thinking of me, that someone cared about me, that I was not alone. It is difficult even now to express my gratitude for my “Friend Brigade”.
Other friends came forward as well….To Be Continued