Monday, March 24, 2014

On Friends and Missed Opportunities

This last week has been kind of tough. My friend and neighbor Candace passed away unexpectedly at the age of 66. She was a kind woman who spent her life in service as a nurse. She was married to the same man (my friend Peter) for 41 years and she has two grown children. Both men are good people and I consider myself fortunate to have met them.

When Steve and I first moved in Candace and Peter went out of their way to make us feel welcome in the neighborhood. We were invited to family birthday parties, they made and brought over pizza, and when I was very sick in 2008, they checked in on my in-laws who were watching our kids at the time. They were just as neighborly with them as they were with Steve and I.

Candace was found on her bedroom floor, a victim to a massive heart attack. The last things she had done before passing from this life were to care for her husband. She had ironed his shirts and cleaned the bathroom they used. This was after a day spent with her beloved husband, lunching and laughing. Peter told me they had gone together to have a Chinese food buffet and then come home.

I hope that when it is my time to go, I will have been as giving a person as she was. Candace made sure her boys had what they needed growing up and from all accounts she was just as giving with her friends. At her eulogy today one of her friends recounted about how she visited a friend in the hospital who had a hip replacement she was not satisfied with the traction set up that they had and went about fixing it to ensure this friend healed properly. That was just who she was. She wanted to be sure that those she loved and cared about had what they needed.

I am still in shock that she is gone. It will take a while for me to adjust and I hope that I can be a good friend to my neighbor Peter as he grieves the loss of his wife.

In the same week that this happened, a friend of ours, Steve, had a pons stroke (see for a description of a pons stroke). There was a period of time that he could not speak, see or move. What is so shocking about this is that he is just 41. This young father of four children suddenly had his life stop in its tracks. Thank God he is recovering now, but his family needs him and came dangerously close to losing a good man.

His wife Michelle was incredible through everything her family endured. She kept positive for her children and made sure that they were surrounded by loving people while there was such uncertainty about the fate of their father. Would I have the grace under pressure that she does? I don’t know. I hope that if and when it ever becomes necessary I can answer yes.

What I find myself thinking about after the two tragedies this week is relationships. How relationships need nurturing and care to flourish. How easy it can get to rely on others’ understanding of your busy schedule and how in the blink of an eye you can lose any opportunity to let them know how truly special they were to you.

If it sounds like I feel guilty it’s because I do. With both of these relationships Candace and Peter as well as Steve and Michelle I find myself thinking about how time can run out for me to show them how much respect I have for them. I’m left speechless when something like this happens because I haven’t spent time with them to let them know. Thankfully I still have time to express to Steve and Michelle how much their friendship means because he is still with us, but you know what I mean.

I suffer from social awkwardness. I get in a room with someone who is not a family member (and sometimes with family members too) and I don’t know what to do with myself. I find myself worrying if I said the right thing. I worry that I said too much or too little. I never realized this until recently but I avoid social situations sometimes because I am so worried that I will not handle it right.

The cost of this avoidance? I think I miss opportunities to develop relationships to a deeper level than they are. When I am faced with a situation where I need to interact with people I focus too much on what I should say. I want them to know I care and I make it more complicated than it needs to be to show them that care and concern I feel.

What shows you that someone cares about you? Is it a kind word? Their willingness to go out of their way for you? Their follow through on things they have promised? Does the amount of companionship matter to you or do you think that it’s more about the quality of the companionship when you have it?

I’d love to know what it takes to be a friend in your book. Please, comment below if you can take a moment to do so. In the meantime, I have a call to make to a friend. I think we need to go for coffee and just “hang out.”

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