I have been feeling blue lately. A very dear friend of mine has lung cancer. It was discovered a year ago and she’s had chemo, radiation and surgery to address it. She was healing from the treatments and had gotten strong again when she discovered that the cancer is back. She is about to start immunotherapy and possibly chemo along with it.
Her struggle has brought back all the pain of losing my best friend Madeleine 13 years ago. It’s not that there haven’t been other losses in the last 13 years, but I had allowed myself to get really close to this dear friend. We’ve known each other for close to 45 years, but the friendship has truly blossomed in the last 10 years after we retired and got to spend more time with each other.
She’s a person with a great appetite for life. She sparkles. She shines. We both have houses in the Hamptons and love sitting in the sun, listening to the birds, enjoying nature and the bounty that sun, water and earth provide. She’s well grounded in her life. And now this. She is about to undergo more devastating treatments, right before the summer. Her favorite season. It breaks my heart.
I feel guilty too for my sadness. What right do I have to be down? My health is good. I’m not enduring one brutal cancer treatment after another. But even as I tell myself that my heart feels heavy. I don’t want to share my sorrow with my friend. She doesn’t need to hear about how her crisis is affecting me. I was saddened too to realize that I didn’t have anyone to share my sorrow with who offered me the same comfort that I used to get from Madeleine. She was my soul mate and her comfort brought me solace.
So I decided to write to the two-dozen women I interviewed for Friendship Dialogues to find out if they have had a particularly hard time dealing with the illness and potential loss of another friend after having suffered the wrenching loss of their best friend. I got back a flood of email messages, so many wise and stirring notes from these women that offered me enormous comfort. I realized that in my desire to share my story about Madeleine and to tell the stories of other women who have also lost their female best friends has led me to create a friendship support group. These women that I have not met have been so giving of their time, support and advice. The email dialogue that we created together these last few days has been uplifting for me and, I believe, to all of them as well.
So I want to thank them for their wisdom and generosity. And once again I encourage you to read the stories at Friendship Dialogues and get to know these amazing women who have endured a deep and painful loss but have learned to live with it and keep going.
I’ll close this post with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, from Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. She inspires me to accept loss as part of life even if it leaves me limping along.
“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”