IC Journey

One of My Best Friends Died Yesterday

Posted in Uncategorized by LJ Johnson on May 9, 2014

It didn’t start out that way – that we would end up being those kinds of friends.  It started out just me being me, and he and his wife being them.  You know, when you’re sick you don’t get out much, and usually, if you do, it’s to go to a restaurant because it just seems easier, if it’s close and they cook for you.  Then you end up, if it is a small, owner-run restaurant, talking and visiting every time, and something sometimes just happens. You spend a half hour or so two or three times a month with people, and they get to know you, and you get to know them.  

With us, well, it started with giving them snapshots of their kids.  For some reason, his wife really appreciated that.  It didn’t seem like such a big deal to me.  Several years went by, and then last year I had knee surgery.  It meant that K went almost every day to that restaurant for dinner (we were on a diet – if you do stir-fried chicken or beef with veggies, it’s pretty healthy).  While I was recovering, my friend (okay, they’re both my good friends) went fishing and cooked me a special meal to help me heal faster.  Goodness knows… my friends’ caring definitely encouraged my heart.  Other times when I was flared so bad that getting to the restaurant was just not happening, and I would send K instead of going with my family, my friends would ask where I was, and when they found out that I was in so much pain that it was making me physically ill, they would send special soup – no charge, of course, just like the special fish dinner.

That was last spring.  By late summer my friend kept having a lot of back pain, and assumed that he pulled something moving heavy cooking pots and stock around.  He also started losing weight, and kept joking with us about how much healthier he was getting.  

He wasn’t getting healthier.  Cancer that he had had treated several years earlier when I hadn’t gotten to know them yet had recurred.  He wasn’t keeping track of it – he couldn’t afford to self-insure in a rural, small-town Chinese restaurant.  By the time he got sick enough to end up in a hospital, it was already stage IV and in his liver and bones.  That was August.  

Tonight, as I was reading a text thread where I was participating in a debate – somehow, my next response had to be about personal growth as a Christian.  I won’t say that I have had a hard life – but it hasn’t been easy.  It has always, always, been blessed, though.  And I realized that my friend who cannot fathom why her husband would be gone at the age of 31 – she and her husband, the past few months, have sometimes, in a very lost, and with a voice so empty with its hope for an answer, have asked me, “Why?” – I realized that I did know the answer, and if I am blessed, I might be able to help her to live through it.

I couldn’t tell them an answer when they asked, though.  In part, because the why comes as we go through the journey, and sometimes we don’t see it until years later.  Also, because when you are hurting that much, sometimes any answer sounds like it is dismissing your hurt – instead of making you feel comforted, it makes you almost feel unheard.  

I realized tonight, though, as I was answering a question and talking about spiritual growth, that if God blesses me, I can be with my friend as she goes through her “why” now.  It will be so hard. English is not her best language yet, she has no education beyond high school and the restaurant was sold when her husband got sick.  She has two children who are just barely beginning school.  It is going to be a long journey.  She counts me as her best friend, and I am chronically ill and cannot, ever, get through an entire week of being a good friend.  She can have me for a few hours a week, tops, if I get to have at least three days off between visits.  This hurts me.  It means I am not a liar when I assure our government that I cannot work, but… it also means that I have to choose who I am to whom – whether my children get my good time, or if I tell them that this week they have to share me with someone who might need me more (since there is only one left at home and he will be sixteen, and a good son, it is easier now).

I got through today.  A lot of it was with her.  Tomorrow is the visitation and funeral, and I will get through them.  I am praying to God for wisdom and stamina, because I know that I will need a lot of both, and He is the only way through anything (this is, ironically, a strange blessing of this illness – when it is “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength,” there is no way I can accomplish anything on my own; every thing I accomplish is another evidence that God is good).  

I promised him just about two weeks ago that it would be okay, because I would take care of his wife.  Now I rely on God to be able to honor that promise.  

One of my best friends died yesterday.


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