I visited G over New Years and I noticed there had been a shift in her, both emotionally and physically since the last time I had seen her. My visit had been planned on my side but was a surprise for her. And I am so glad I planned my trip. Although it was not planned in the circumstances in which they played out, I know that I was meant to be with her during that time. I know she needed me. And I needed her. She had been quite ill, in treatment, and she had recently had surgery. She was weak and unable to walk or get around on her own. Surprising her was so special, and I’ll never forget the smile on her face- it was priceless. She was so happy to see me. It really made her so happy that I would do it all again just to see that smile. I would do almost anything to see her smile again…
Although she was weak her humor was still intact. We spent five wonderful days together. Despite her compromised immune system, the fact she wasn’t able to walk or drive, and she was in a tremendous amount of pain, we managed to make more wonderful memories together.
I remember at one point she was trying to open an orange juice bottle and she didn’t have the strength to do it. She was frustrated but not angry, she just joked and said, “you never know how weak you are until you no longer have the strength to do the things you used to do-put that on a t-shirt and print it.” I know she probably felt worse about this than she let on, but she never lost her sense of humor. Looking back it must have been hard to feel so weak and not be able to express just how sad that made her feel. To actually have to ask someone for help to open a bottle of orange juice was probably a real low for her.
There were so many days after that I would ask her how she was doing and she’d say fine, or ok, and I knew she wasn’t being honest, but I also knew I couldn’t say anything or she’d get angry. It was always a fine line with G. After she was so fiercely burned in therapy she never really let anyone close to her and if you would try to hard she’d feel exposed and pull back. To this day that saddens me more than anything because I feel like it should have been so much different for her. She died never allowing anyone to know her or love her the way she deserved and it makes me so sad. She deserved better. But anytime I would try to get to close I would get the “life isn’t fair” brush off, or our conversation would be turned into a joke. I always thought we would have more time. Time to convince her she was loveable. Time to convince her that it wasn’t her job to be the perfect patient, or be the one to know how to draw the boundaries in a therapeutic relationship. But she felt like she failed… as a daughter, as a wife, and as a patient. And I am so so sad that she felt this up to the day she died. And she didn’t even tell me so much of what she was feeling. I found out after her death. When I saw she reached out for the closure that she still never got. Dammit!
It was very sad to watch her grow so weak. I imagine it was even more sad for someone so strong to become so weak. So when she joked around that she was to weak to open the orange juice, it was an effort to laugh to avoid crying. Like so many times I would tell her it was ok to be weak. But she didn’t believe me.
I am very lucky that I have a therapist to help me through this grieving process, just as she has helped me through so many other trying times in my life. I’m so thankful for my therapist who has been here for me through divorce, my spouse’s alcoholism, child addiction, my own issues. She has never failed me. And I would not be able to get through my best friend’s death were it not for the support of my therapist. I’m so thankful for her. I only wish my sweet friend had known the kind of therapeutic relationship that I know…that it is healing and not just pain, that it can he helpful and not only hurtful. She never knew that. And I know from reading her last emails, and her draft posts, just how much pain she never shared. And how she believed it was all her fault. And that makes my heart ache in sadness.
I imagine she is strong in spirit now. Or I hope. But I would open her orange juice every day to still have her here.