A few years before she passed, she had a procedure done that required a heart valve replacement. It was scary for her at the time, and I had just moved back home after living in Washington, D.C., for two years.
I couldn’t imagine what was going through her mind during this time. Here’s a single mother of two sons, who has worked all her life since the age of 19. She put both sons through college, and now she’s being told that she has to have this life-changing and life-saving surgery.
No truer words spoken
The surgery was a success, and after what seemed like a few days, she was released … to my care. Soon after she came home, she was able to move around on her own pretty well. I cooked and helped her with some things she didn’t have the strength to do at the time, but overall, she did well. I’m glad we had this time together.
I remember a conversation we had while watching television. I asked her how afraid she had been to have the surgery, and she replied, “Terrified.” When she was much younger, doctors told her she would eventually need the surgery. She was able to hold off for about 35 years before the condition really affected her lifestyle.
Jokingly, she told me, “If you want to see who your real friends are, stay sick long enough.” We both laughed; however, I didn’t realize at the time how much truth was in her words.
As she continued to heal, some of her close friends became more casual in their friendships. It didn’t bother her much. She had family and was able to continue sewing and doing her desktop publishing for various churches and small businesses. She was happy that she was able to continue doing what she loved and had the continued support of those who relied on her work.
Mom knew best
Fast-forward 24 years, and now her youngest son has the pleasure of truly understanding what her words meant. I’m sure any person who has a chronic medical issue will admit that their support team means just as much if not more to them than any medicine prescribed.
I remember that throughout my different hospital stays, some of my “friends” were more shocked about me being hospitalized than about my condition. Some made an effort to visit the hospital; some sent cards, a fruit basket, or flowers. Others offered the generic “I’m praying for you” (via text message) and the ever-popular “Let me know if you need anything.”
My wife and I had a conversation about this, and we laughed; however, she put some things into perspective for me. She said, “Sometimes, people don’t know what to say or how to react to illnesses.” I’d never thought about that until she mentioned it.
Over the past two years, I’ve made some changes to who I now consider my “inner circle.” Imagine that: My mom made sense years ago, and now my wife was making sense to me. I guess I am from Mars.
Changes are necessary
I think people genuinely mean well. In my experience, though, the people who offered “prayers” and “let me know if you need anything” haven’t been around much. I think that’s code for “I hope he doesn’t ask me for anything!” Maybe they don’t realize that if someone with medical challenges calls upon them for assistance, it may just be for companionship — someone to talk to or laugh with.
Experience is the best teacher, and what I’ve learned is that you don’t need a big support group to help you get through whatever issues you’re faced with. The people who want to be a support to you understand that every day is different for you, and they’re willing to offer you what you need.
My inner circle has changed a lot. Some folks I have less contact with, because my major concern is getting better, both physically and mentally. I guess at the end of the day, you will find out who your friends are, whether by how long you stay sick or how soon you get better.
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