Dying is supposed to be an older person’s thing. We are all supposed to grow old, have an armful of grandchildren and in between, build an exemplary career for ourselves and travel the world.
But that’s not how life works. We generally do not know what to do when a friend of ours in her mid-twenties is slowly fading away because of a terminal illness. Yet we feel the compulsion to reach out to her once more, well you know, just to make sure that we did our part as a friend before she leaves this world.
Let’s do dinner this week
I mean, what would others think of me if they found out that I knew she was dying and didn’t reach out? Man, they would think I am a monster and I don’t think I can live with that. Okay great, I’ll pick up the phone and ask to meet her. You know what, I will ask the others that worked together with us to meet as well, I mean the more the merrier right? Yes, yes… it has been four years since any of the gang had spoken to each other but I’m sure that it will just be like those good old days. It’s just dinner and everyone has to eat right? Exactly, I can’t believe that I came up with such a good plan. Okay, let me create a group chat and put everyone in it.
For someone whose countdown has since started, a lot of things that used to matter to the person do not matter anymore. Instead, all that matters is the simplest of things like spending time with friends and more importantly, family.
You have got to understand that the person is now living in a body that is a mere shadow of what it used to be. Simple things, like taking a shower, tires her out and she needs to rest a bit before trying her best to ignore her the waves of pain her betraying body has been sending throughout.
Even the definition of friend has changed. To that girl, a friend now is someone that will not shoot daggers at her when she has to stop walking and catch her breath. A friend is someone that will not flinch when that girl shares about how she struggles to do simple things like poop and pee. To that girl, a friend is someone that would sit with her and stroke her hair when she weeps for the life that she will never have.
And unless you had made the effort to reach out to that girl the moment fate decided to play that cruel joke, it is unlikely that girl will want to meet with you regardless of how close you used to be.
She simply does not have the time and energy.
Right right.. I don’t think that she will want to meet with me so maybe I should get her something small to let her know that I am thinking of her. Ahhhh I know, I’ll get her a camera. As she journeys towards the end she can take photos of the people she love so that they can remember her. Even better, an instant camera so the people she pass the photos to them immediately. Such a brilliant idea really that will benefit not just her, but those around her as well.
A person’s legacy is not built on just a couple of instax photos. Instead, it is built over the years. It is built over many shared moments both happy and sad, the midnight conversations and buckets of tears shared.
To that girl, who once used to be slightly chubby, seeing her shrunken frame scares her. It serves as a reminder that life is no longer as it used to be. Seeing her shrunken self scares her because she has no idea how the end will be like nor how much more can her already frail body take.
Nobody taught us what to do or how to react to a young person journeying towards the end. More often than not, what we perceive as actions done out of good intentions can cause lots of stress and frustration.
When you strip away everything that we have, all the material wealth and possessions, and even health, all that we have left is our dignity. Forcing something at someone is cruel it takes away the only thing the person has left – dignity.