Quick blog post tonight – but its been on my mind.
Respect. I know, I know, typing it like that immediately put Aretha Franklin’s song in your mind. But turn off the mental soundtrack for a couple of minutes. I am talking about respect. Common courtesy. We all expect it, whether we think we do or not. But when you are sick, with anything from the common cold to terminal cancer, do the rules change? NO! There is never a time when common courtesy or respect is inappropriate!
However, there are times when it simply disappears. Sometimes it happens with the best of intentions. With the influx of social media into our lives, we meet people online who we come to care about. We do everything we can to support them in their difficulties, to rejoice in their accomplishments and celebrations. They become our friends. When they hurt, we hurt with them. Many times we never meet in person, but they become entwined in our lives. We look for posts from them, especially when we know their illness is progressing, and that their time on earth is dwindling. We feel helpless with the miles that separate us, because our means of “support” are comments on the now infrequent statuses. Our respect for what they are going through, for what their family is having to endure, is diluted by our own sense of care. This is OUR friend – and we want to know how they are! So without thought, we send a personal message. An e-mail. Whatever. We consider our needs above that of the friend we care about – we need to know how our friend is!
There is a problem with this, of course. The family of our friend is scrambling. Their dad/husband/son/brother is dying before their eyes. Every time he has a choking episode or a seizure, they do not know if this is “IT”. They live in a state of fear that NO ONE knows unless you have been there. They are already dealing with the fact that their loved one isn’t really here most of the time, between the effects of the disease and the drug induced unconsciousness. But now, they are dealing with bad manners. Complete lack of respect and common courtesy. Your well-intentioned message means they have taken time away from caring for a dying man to read your message – even when there is nothing new to report. Seriously, people, dying isn’t glamorous. Personally, when my dad died, I was lucky. He was here, he was gone. No sickness, no hospital stay – just gone. People who have terminal illnesses are usually not that lucky. Days, weeks, months, sometimes even YEARS of watching a slow, painful decline. Watching your family life erode. No such animal as normal ever darkens your door for any length of time. Well intentioned friends – both near and those who become involved through social media – see posts from you and assume all is well, and it is for the five minutes it took to write that post. No one knows about the mad vomiting trip you made between the post and the first time you commented. Then you lose the ability to post. Your family posts for you, but the well-meaning don’t pay a lot of attention to that – they want YOU to post, and you can’t.
Think I’m having fun writing a fictional story? I wish. I’m not sure if I have all the details right, but this is how I see what my friend Mike Terrill’s family is going through right now. His daughter posted yesterday about messages flooding their inboxes wanting updates. We all know that Mike’s time with his family is very limited, and are glad to hear about a good evening, a good few hours. But, even if we don’t say it, we all also know that the “bad” times are often, that he spends much time so heavily medicated that he sleeps, and that the beast called cancer is slowly taking over. So why are they getting flooded with messages wanting updates? I don’t know. I don’t know what those who are sending those messages are thinking. I do know this. I miss seeing random posts from my friend. I miss our rare phone chats. I miss his blog posts, although I enjoy his daughter’s. But the hole in the fabric of my life is there. It pales in comparison to that of his family, and those who have been much closer to him than I have. So, yesterday’s post has weighed on my mind, thus this blog.
To those who are sending these messages, please stop. There is a difference between “hey, I’m thinking about y’all”, or “you are in my thoughts and prayers” and asking people who are already running a three-ring circus on the head of a pin to stop and give YOU an update. Have a little respect for a dying man. Have a little common courtesy for his family, who are enduring something I sincerely hope NO ONE ever has to go through, and that I truly HATE that they are enduring.
To Mike, in case you are in a position for someone to read this to you, I love you, and thank you for putting your oh-so-difficult road out there for us all to see, for teaching us all just how precious every second of life is. To Jenn, lady, I am here for you anytime, anyway. To Anna, thank you for your willingness to put all your emotions out there for all the world to see, and for showing grace beyond your years. To Kayla, Tyler and Riley – please know just how many of us truly respect you, and are here for you because of the great regard we have for your dad. To all the other people who are family to Mike – you have my utmost respect, and care, because I know just how hard it is to have a member of your family hurt and you can’t fix it. To all the admins and members of Curing Cancer With A Smile – I am here for all of you – anytime, anyway. I am NEVER too busy.
We must always support those we care about. We must also put ourselves in their position sometimes, and realize that we just might not be foremost in their mind right now, with good reason. If we truly care for someone, whether we know them personally or just through social media, we must NEVER forget to respect them, as we would wish for them to respect us.
Thanks for your time in reading this – please feel free to share.