My dilemma is that if it comes to it, I would really like to say goodbye in person. But I have no idea how to broach the subject. I am in contact with her mother, who is very involved in my friend’s care and treatment. I was thinking that I might send a handwritten letter to her mother asking about it. Assuming they would be comfortable with my presence at some point. I don’t know – is this an inappropriate request for a non-family member? I am at a loss for words. How are you supposed to ask a mother to please let you know if her daughter is about to die?
I don’t know what the right course of action is. I don’t want to cause any additional pain or stress to the family, especially since I really hope I am worrying for nothing. But my friend means so much to me, and I am afraid I will regret not asking if something does happen.
If you have any thoughts or suggestions I would very much appreciate it. — Worried About My Friend
I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s cancer and the recent change in her prognosis. It must be a scary and stressful time for everyone, most of all your friend and her immediate family. One “benefit” of a long-term, serious illness is that the end is often drawn-out enough that there’s some warning for everyone involved to, essentially, make those “end-of-life” plans your friend isn’t ready to think about yet. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point, but if it does, there’s a strong likelihood that the signs would become clearer and more urgent, to the point that she would have no choice but to accept them and to reach out to those closest to her. If it comes to that point, there’s also a strong likelihood that she would be moved to hospice care, an end-of-life environment, often at a facility devoted solely to hospice or at one’s home, where life-saving treatments are halted and comfort for the patient is made a top priority. Another priority is giving loved ones the space — and the guidance — to say good-bye and begin letting go.
Obviously, these are not easy things to think about, let alone ask about. But I think you can let it be known you would appreciate being included in that end-of-life space, if it comes to that, without offending or needlessly hurting anyone. Since your friend has said she isn’t ready to think about it, you should respect that and not press her. And since you have been in regular touch with her mother, I would reach out to her. I would start by expressing your heartfelt feelings about the position she’s in and the gratitude you have that she’s spent time and energy remaining in contact with you. And then segue into how grateful you would be to be included should your friend’s courageous fight transition to the next phase and her comfort become a priority over treatment.
Here’s a sample template that you can personalize:
Over the last two and a half years, while attention has rightfully been on ‘Carol,’ your example of strength and grace has and continues to be an inspiration to me. I know only what it’s like to support a close friend from afar who is battling cancer, and I can’t begin to imagine how this has affected you, a mother, watching her daughter fight the battle of her life. Please know your example will always be a source of inspiration to me in the face of challenges. I also want you to know how much I appreciate your taking time to keep me updated and in the loop when you are already devoting so much time and energy to Carol’s care. It means so much to me.
Something else that would mean a lot to me — and this is difficult to ask, so I hope it is received in the way I intend — would be to to be included should, God forbid, Carol’s fight transition to another phase and loved ones are invited to help make her comfortable and surround her with love. It’s hard to think about that, and Carol has expressed to me that she isn’t ready to, and maybe you aren’t either. But I would regret it if I didn’t at least make it known that I would very much like the opportunity to be by her side and to lend and share any support and comfort I can with her, with you, and with everyone who loves her.”
Sending warm thoughts to your friend for healing and strength. Please keep us posted.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.