Unique Friendship

As I have already mentioned, a number of great friendships emerged from the turmoil of the last couple of years of my life, and I would like to attempt to describe each one in greater detail. I would like to try to share how much each one has meant to me, starting with, perhaps, the most unique friendship I have ever had.

I will warn you, this one is very important to me, but it is also very complex. I don’t know if I can adequately convey my feelings about this person because it is very easy to misconstrue what I say and turn this into something that it is not. Please listen closely to what I say. Everything I say about this extraordinary individual is exactly what I mean to say. Do not try to read more into it!

Okay, here goes……

I have a very dear friend. A relationship that is somewhat unique and unorthodox. Something unexpected from both sides, but also, something I believe to be completely ordained by God. A gift to help me through the crisis of Dan’s illness, and the subsequent abrupt loss of my husband and best friend.

This friend is someone uniquely qualified to fill this role. Someone who understands this journey. Someone who could anticipate and help address problems as they arose. Someone who also has young children, and can relate to parenting and school issues with sound advice. Someone who has a good sense of humor, who not only makes me laugh, but seems to appreciate my quirky, dry humor, too. Someone who is non-threatening and nonjudgemental. Someone uniquely qualified, simply because he is a man.

But this friendship didn’t happen over night. It was a long, slow process fraught with pitfalls and difficulty.

Why?      Good question.

Well…..because…..he was one of Dan’s doctors.

Yes, you heard that right. Dan’s doctor, and as such (during the height of Dan’s illness), he made it perfectly clear that he had to maintain a certain amount of professional “emotional distance.” He said he did not “socialize” with patients or their families. He couldn’t get too personally involved because of the nature of the illnesses with which he deals.

I totally understand this. I completely respect it, but the crazy thing is, by the time he said that, the friendship already existed. By that point in our email conversations (that is how we communicate), I had already concisely expressed what I thought of him and the evolving rapport between us. I had been “fishing” for that exact reaction months before. I had given him more than ample opportunity to define the parameters, but he didn’t take the bait! Ugh! Guys can be so dense, sometimes!

So, obviously, I was more than a little surprised by the time he actually did react. The only reason I can think for the sudden assertion of such a directive, after many, many months of close back and forth communication, is that he must have suddenly realized he had broken his own rules. Maybe, he even realized that he cared a little more about Dan and me than he intended to?

Well, like I said, I totally get and respect these boundaries, but the conversation really hurt, at the time. I felt embarrassed, like I had done something wrong (even though, I hadn’t), and I felt such panic and despair about possibly ruining, not only a wonderful budding friendship, but a truly open and honest doctor/patient rapport.

I felt terrible.

So, I set out to do some emergency damage control, but I refused to apologize for doing something wrong because I had not. I agreed to “play” by his rules (Although sometimes, I think I pushed them just a tiny bit. So sorry, doctor. I hope you know it’s harmless and I can’t help myself.) for as long as he was Dan’s doctor, but I reminded him of two things. One, at some point, one way or another, he would cease being Dan’s doctor, and, when that happened, all bets were off! Two, in my humble opinion, the reason he is such a great doctor is his ability to recklessly connect to his patients and their families on a personal, emotional level. Oh the irony!

Well, despite his best efforts, I am pretty sure the friendship continued to grow. We have remained in touch despite all the changes.

Now, here I feel compelled to remind you of my warning:
No, I do not have a crush on this man.
No, I am not in love with him.
Yes, I care about him.
Yes, he is very important to me.

The best way I can think to illustrate my feelings is: He has become like a big brother to me.

God placed him in my life. His fierce commitment to his patients was a driving force behind getting so much of what Dan needed, and helping me in so many ways. I can not imagine the past couple of years without this amazing doctor’s support, advice, and kindness.

But that’s not all…..

God placed me in his life, too. This part is harder to explain. Right after we met him…..right at the beginning of Dan’s illness……God told me to pray for this doctor. (Now, for anyone who is not a Christian, I know this makes me sound like a lunatic, but hang in there. I don’t know a better way to say it, but I will try to explain.) I don’t know why He wanted me to pray for someone I hardly knew, and I did not want to. I didn’t know this man. I didn’t care about him. My husband was facing a terrifying ordeal. He was who I wanted to focus all my thoughts and prayers on, not some stranger……but there he was……every time I started to pray……the only name that came to mind was the doctor’s.

I was confused. I know God’s “voice.” It is pressing. It is persistent. It is obvious. It is frustrating! But, I obeyed. For most of 2013, I prayed for the doctor, at least before I prayed for anyone else. I don’t know why…..I may never know why…..God knows…..

All I can say is, I am grateful to know such a remarkable man, and I am honored and privileged to call him a friend…..a brother.

Tela

P.S. For the sake of convenience, I will henceforth call this doctor, Dr. Butterfly. I know, a little weird, but he knows why.    image

Jealousy

Did you know that caring for someone with a debilitating, terminal disease can create intense feelings of jealousy? Well, I didn’t. I didn’t even recognize them once they started. They hid somewhere deep inside, pretending to be something else.

Now I can recognize these feelings of jealousy, but, looking back, they were hard to see. They manifested in an extreme cynicism that eventually lead to anger and depression. I don’t think I recognized those feelings for a long time.

I just felt jealous of other couples. I was supposed to “live happily ever after.” Dan and I were supposed to grow old together. I was not supposed to have to raise my children alone.

To be honest, all I ever wanted was to be married. I know that sounds so “1950s” of me, but it is the truth. I didn’t even meet Dan until I was 24 (he was 29). One of my younger sisters had already married. Then, Dan came along, and all my dreams seemed to fall into place, only to be crushed 12 short years later.

It isn’t fair!

So, for a long time, whenever I saw happy couples or a dad playing with his kids, I would burst into tears or, worse, I would actually think, “Yeah, you’re happy now, but wait until one of you gets a terrible disease or gets hit by a bus or something….” I even started crying when we took the kids to see “Frozen” because of that silly song Anna sings about falling in love with that character everyone knows will turn out to be the villain!

Thankfully, I did eventually recognize how angry I was, and I did manage to work through those feelings. I realized I was focusing too much on myself….on only my problems. Dan was the one going through this, not me. Dan was the one who had been robbed of everything he was, not me.

Toward the end of Dan’s illness and since his death, I have begun to look at my circumstances, my personal tragedy, differently. I figured out that I lived a fairy tale, and Dan was my Prince Charming. Maybe I didn’t get my “happily ever after,” but I did, if only for a short time, have my true love. A fairy tale isn’t about the ending. It’s about believing, hoping, and trusting. It’s about fighting the evil, together, on the journey. It’s about the love you share along the way.

Maybe, God gave me to Dan, not the other way around. Perhaps, out of the billions of people on this planet, I was the one chosen to accompany Dan on his horrible journey, and, if that is the case, then my marriage, my circumstances, are a privilege, not a burden. A sacred challenge that I hope I rose too.

Believe me, I didn’t arrive at these conclusions overnight, and I am not saying that anything about my experience applies to anyone else. My anger gave way to intense sadness and despair….hopelessness….depression. At my worst, I was so worn down that I didn’t even notice I was physically sick. Scary!

Thankfully, God knew I needed help, and he put several people in my life, at just the right times. I will be talking about these special relationships, individually, in future posts, but the one that pertains to this situation…..the person God placed in my life to directly help me manage my depression…..is my primary care physician (PCP). He is an incredibly insightful man who had enough patience to introduce a course of treatment slowly enough for me to contemplate it, and he had enough wisdom to know when to “put his foot down” and push me in the right direction. For that, I am truly grateful.

Thank you, Dr. W.

I can’t really say I am “out of the woods,” yet. Dan died less than two months ago…..
But I can say that with God’s help, my family and friends’ support, and the exceptional care of a great PCP….

I will be okay.

Later,
Tela