Have you ever wondered how to comfort a friend who is dying? I am going to talk about my friend Cinda today who I met about ten years ago. I first met her at a neighborhood luncheon and she was sitting alone at a table. I sat down next to her and we started talking about our family, food storage, emergency preparedness and so much more. This is the day our friendship started. We started talking more and more each week, month or whenever we could. Cinda and I were passionate about food storage and being prepared for the unexpected. We would email each other with ideas and thoughts and even taught a class or two together about emergency preparedness.
We would share ideas on what we thought we could do to get the neighborhood involved in being prepared for a disaster or unforeseen emergency. One day Cinda called me to come help her pack up her home because she and her husband had sold their home. She had another friend come and help pack from a different neighborhood, as well. She had mentioned she had some pain in her abdomen and had gone to the doctor to get checked out. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong. She used herbal therapy, essential oils and some kind of massage therapy by a friend. The pain got worse and she eventually went back to the original doctor who realized she had missed a serious disease, She was now diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She told the doctor not to worry because we all make mistakes. It was a hard cancer to detect.
She and her husband headed to Salt Lake City, Utah to a treatment center that specializes in cancer care to see if any treatment would work. She was told she had 18 months to live without any treatment, and two years with treatment.They headed back home and her husband had to go back to work to pay the bills. Cinda could no longer work. Her husband worked nights at the local hospital as a nurse, and they asked for volunteers to sleep overnight at her home so she wouldn’t be alone. I think I slept there three or four nights a week. You would think it would be difficult going there knowing your friend would die sometime in the next two years or less. It wasn’t, it was actually fun to be together because we are both Christians and had some really good stories about when we both attended bible school when we were younger. We would look at photos and books and talk about how she lived, how she met her husband, the day her son was born and the list goes on and on. I listened and loved every story she talked about.
Well, she and I started looking online for other cancer clinics. Each night we would go over the charts of the advantages of this clinic to another clinic. Every cancer clinic/hospital was on a spreadsheet and we would talk about the pro and cons of each one. She decided she would call one the next morning she felt really comfortable with and made an appointment to go see if they thought she had a chance at extending her life. She and her husband headed there and loved the place and the people. She started treatments shortly thereafter. The sleepovers continued after she started the treatments at the new hospital when would return home in between treatments.
Friends rallied around her, and I don’t know about the others, but I drove over to her rental home in my pajamas with my pillow and blanket when it was my sleepover night. We would talk, giggle, and laugh until 11:00 P.M. at night. I would leave before she woke up because her husband came home from work around 5:00 A.M. in the morning. I will cherish forever those nights with her.
The treatments continued and she lost her hair and I said when she’s gone I wanted her wig because it was a classic! I know we all have family members, close friends, and acquaintances who have won their battle against cancer, and some who have lost that battle. Some have died from other diseases or accidents.
She called me in December 2013 and said she had lost the battle but wanted me to hear it from her before I heard from someone else. We said our goodbyes and she asked that I remember her as she lived and not how she died. We cried together and I told her to watch from heaven because I would continue to teach the world to be prepared for the unexpected. She gave me a blue and green hummingbird to hang and to remember her by looking at the hummingbird. She made it through Christmas and died in February 2014.
My tips for dealing with a dying friend:
- Laugh with them.
- Talk with them about the good times you both have had together.
- Ask them to share stories about their life.
- Giggle with them (it’s different than laughing with them, trust me).
- Bring them their favorite candy or treat.
- Bring them meals to help the family.
- Clean their house (especially the bathrooms).
- Change their sheets.
- Clean the kitchen.
- Bring them fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Ask them how they feel about dying, this was the most special question I asked Cinda.
- Help them write their life history, if they are interested, or at least write-down stories they cherished.
- Listen, listen and listen again to whatever they want to talk about.
- Hug them and tell them you love them.
- Be sure and visit your friend, even if you don’t know what to say.
- Talk about the illness, you can see cues from your friend if he or she wants to talk about it.
- Ask them what’s on their mind today.
- Treat your friend as you always have, she or he is the same person.
- Sometimes people don’t want to be a burden so they don’t ask for help (trust me you will gain more for serving those who need help).
- Do something for the partner or spouse (this is a very hard time for them too) I brought her husband a six pack of Coke and M & M peanuts!
I have two regrets in my life, the first was when I was 20 and my neighbor’s 2-week old baby died from Meningitis. I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing. I’m sure she could have used a hug and someone to talk to, or whatever. My other regret was when I gave birth to a healthy baby girl and my lifelong friend who I lived next door to growing up gave birth to a stillborn baby within weeks of my giving birth. I didn’t send a note, I didn’t call her. I didn’t know what to say. I regret this 40+ years later.
I only wish my friend Cinda had been able to read my book: Prepare Your Family for Survival: How to Be Ready for Any Emergency or Disaster Situation
My favorite emergency preparedness items:
The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way
Blue Can – Premium Emergency Drinking Water
AquaBrick Food and Water Storage Container – Brick Only
Kelly Kettle Ultimate Stainless Steel Large Base Camp Kit