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Something to Think About: What the Sick Really Want from Us
This morning, Cary Tennis, the Salon advice columnist, shared a moving letter from a man who is losing his mother to leukemia at age 87.
"I owe my mother a lot, " the writer says. "Besides the fact that she took care of us as a single mother, she also had to help me through an accident I had when I was 10 years old, which involved a number of surgeries; she made sure we were housed and fed, and she pushed us to get educations. ... My problem is that I have such a hard time visiting her. All she wants is someone to sit with her, but that is hard for me. I take my son with me sometimes, and it is wonderful to see her face light up. She doesn't say much, but we just sit for a while and then leave. I wish I could go there and spend more time, but it is really hard to do that. It literally drains me of all of my energy. I'm not complaining about her. She makes no demands. I'm not the dying person. I feel I should want to go see her as much as possible now."
While Tennis responds in a loving, thoughtful manner to the writer's confusions, what struck us most was the mother—and the idea that to sit and be with somebody sick is enough. So often we visitors worry about flowers (is pollen allowed?); we worry about bringing balloons or tabloid magazines; we worry about whether to sit on the bed (too close?) or sit on the chair (too far); we worry we're talking about silly, selfish things (our broken dishwasher, our jerky ex) when these sick people are struggling for their lives. However, instead of doing all this worrying, which may just lead you not to show up in the hospital room at all, or to panic and act in the least way you'd like to act, you can just sit and be there. Being there is enough.
Read more: Ways to help an ailing friend or parent
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